South African Journal of Sports Medicine

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Age-related decrements in cycling and running performance

A St Clair Gibson, Ni Lambert, TD Noakes


Objective. This study examined age-related decrements in athletic performance during running and cycling activities.

Design. The age group winning times for males aged between 18 and 70 years competing in the 1999 Argus cycle tour (103 km) and 1999 Comrades running marathon (90 km), South Africa's premier endurance cycling and running events respectively, were examined.

Main outcome measures. The relationship between speed (cycling and running respectively) and age was calculated using a 4th order polynomial function. The derivative of each of these functions was determined and then the slope of the function corresponding to each age was calculated.

Results. The rate of decline in running speed occurred at an earlier age (~ 32 years) during the running race compared with the cycling tour (~ 55 years).

Conclusions. These findings establish a trend that there is ‘accelerated' aging during running which can perhaps be attributed to the increased weight-bearing stress on the muscles during running compared with cycling.

SA Sports Medicine Vol.16(2) 2004: 8-11
AJOL African Journals Online