‚ΔΆ "Heartless Training or Training the Heart?", Translation from Norwegian by Inge Scheve; X-C World Digest. Vol. II, Number 2, Summer 2009
Norwegian physiologist, Joseph Grimsmo has followed a group of competitive x-c skiers since 1976, tracking their performance and vital signs. It is not a surprise that VO2 max and endurance decrease with age, but much more slowly than their sedentary peers. However, Grimsmo has also recorded some high occurrences of irregular and racing heart rates in 60- and 70-year olds. In younger masters, the prevalence of this condition is 10 to 15 times higher than in the population at large.
Grimsmo posits two determining factors (1) the duration of intense workouts, and (2) the age at which the skier began to train hard.
One of the physiological adaptations that young, competitive x-c skiers develop is an enlarged heart which increases their blood volume. This adaptation is perfectly suited to the demands of competitive skiing. However, as as these skiers age (usually in their late 30s and 40s) performance gradually declines. Then a more dramatic decline (usually in the 60s and 70s). With aging, the elasticity of the heart muscle decreases and it cannot relax as quickly between beats. It no longer expands as much or as fast is it once did. As a result, the heart rate of some of these skiers may increase dramatically to as much as 200bpm for periods of a few seconds to several days. This "racing heart" increases the risk of blood clots in the brain and the risk of heart failure. Grimsmo recorded this condition in about 10 percent of the masters skiers in their 60s, compared with 1 percent in the general population.
What can be done? First, remember that 90 percent of the skiers in the study showed no symptoms. Exercise in the oldest skiers is still beneficial to health and well-being. Those skiers who began to train hard at an early age should reduce the intensity of their training. This is probably less of an issue for skiers who began to train hard after 40 because their heart is not as likely to be come enlarged as skiers who began earlier. No women were included in the study. There are medical procedures which can alleviate this condition.
‚ΔΆ "Physical Activity and Successful Aging in Canadian Adults" Journal of Aging and Physical Activity , Vol. 17, No. 2, April 2009, Human Kinetics
One of many studies that indicates that physical activity is beneficial to "successful aging" (defined here as as a balance of absence of disease, high functional capacity, and engagement with life). The study found that physically active respondents (more than 12,000) were than twice as likely to be rated as aging successfully. Although this study involved only Canadians, many other studies have reached similar conclusions.
‚ΔΆ "The Way We Age Now" by Atul Gwande, The New Yorker , April 2007
A compelling account of aging -- body part by body part. Gwande discusses the aging of the U.S. population and the paradoxical decline in the number of trained geriatricians in the U.S.
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