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This research was conducted to identify if there was any physiological impact of age on VO2 max levels, to observe these differences two male cyclists of a similar level were recruited with the following anthropometric characteristics, age 39 ± 18.38, height (m) 1.9 ± 0 and mass (kg) 89.6 ± 13.29. The test utilised was an incremental cycle ergometer test with workloads based upon the subjects anthropometric characteristics, during this test the following variables were recorded, VO2, Workload, RPE, RER, 5-minute post blood lactate levels and heart rate. Following the recording of these basic data analyses, such as standard deviation and means calculations were used with the partnering of graphs to help visualise the data. The results showed that subject 1 had a higher relative VO2 of 64.46 ml.kg-1.min-1 in comparison to subject 2s 42.02 ml.kg-1.min-1. This data paired with the secondary VO2 criteria such as RPE, heart rate and blood lactate levels suggested that the researchers’ hypothesis was correct but required further study.
The research that has been carried out aimed to help identify the effect of age on VO2 max. VO2 max was defined by (Hill A, Lupton H, 1923) as the oxygen uptake attained during maximal exercise intensity that could not be increased despite further increases in exercise workload, setting a limit of the cardiorespiratory system. Furthermore, VO2 max can also be calculated utilising the Fick equation ( VO2max= Q x (a-vO2diff)), this is often seen as the gold standard for measurement of aerobic fitness (Stickland, M et al. 2012).
Previous research (Langeskov-Christensen et al. 2014) has highlighted primary criterion for VO2 max as a plateau in oxygen uptake despite an increase in work rate, while secondary criteria include an elevated respiratory exchange ratio (RER) above 1.1, an achievement of a fixed percentage of the age-predicted maximal heart rate (HR-max), a high level of lactic acid in the blood in the minutes following the exercise test and finally subjective ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) indicating exhaustion.
The researchers hypothesised that VO2 Max levels will decline with age.
The researchers believed this study was appropriate due to previous research by (Goldspink, 2005) which highlighted that the body undergoes a decline in the functional reserve of the systems with age. This decline also applies to trained athletes across age groups (Pimentel A, et al. 2003). Inspired by this information the researchers wanted to gain their own insight into the effect of age on VO2 max, they believe that their results could be used for future studies from the perspective of health and sports sciences.
Two male athletes of differing ages, subject 1 being 26 and subject 2 being 52 with a club level of cycling experience were recruited for this study, to increase the validity of results they were required to hold similar anthropometric characteristics as highlighted in Table 1.
Mean ± S.D.
39 ± 18.38
1.9 ± 0
89.6 ± 13.29
3.48 ± 0.94
Table 1 – Table highlighting subjects anthropometric characteristics expressed as mean ± Standard Deviation.
The cycle ergometer incremental test was carried out in laboratory conditions at the physiology laboratory of the University of Sunderland. This test was preceded by gaining the subject’s consent and having them complete a ParQ questionnaire. Following this their mass was recorded as well as there blood pressure and heart rate. To ensure there were no contraindications the previous answers of the ParQ and data collected were assessed.
The Douglas bags and equipment were calibrated to prepare them for the upcoming tests, including the corrections of height for the seats on each participants cycle ergometer. The participants were then asked to complete a 3 minute warm up at 60W with a 2-minute rest after before the actual test. The test began with each participant cycling at a work rate calculated for them by our researchers, this workload (W) would increase by 30W every 3 minutes with the test lasting a maximum of 12 minutes. Every time a participant reached the last minute (Between 2-3) of each stage the following data was collected, A 1 minute expired gas sample, HR every 15 seconds, RPE and blood lactate. This was repeated until the client reached volitional exhaustion.
Finally, once the participants completed the test a 5-minute post-exercise blood lactate sample was collected, all mouthpieces and nose clips were removed to be placed in the sink with the athlete being monitored to ensure they recovered fully.
Research participants would not be subjected to harm in any ways possible.
Respect for the dignity of research participants was prioritised.
informed consent was provided.
The subject was provided with full confidentiality of data.
A Par-Q and pre-tests were completed to assess any contraindications for the participant.
Right to withdraw was available throughout.
Douglas bags x 2
One-way breathing valve
Heart rate monitor
Test protocol – To replicate this study the following steps should be carried out.
Have the participants complete an informed consent and a ParQ.
Record the participants mass.
Obtain measures such as blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) at rest.
Assess ParQ, BP and HR.
Ensure all equipment is ready for gas collection and that Douglas bags are evacuated.
Ensure the seats on cycle ergometers are at correct heights for subjects.
Have subjects complete a 3 minute warm up at 60W with a 2-minute rest.
Utilise an appropriate workload for your subjects, with the test lasting between 8-12 minutes.
Each stage will last 3 minutes.
During the last minute of each stage (from 2-3 mins) collect the following:
A 1 minute expired gas sample
HR every 15 seconds
11. At the end of each stage, the workload is increased by 30W – continuous incremental test.
12. Continue increasing the workload after every 3-minute stage until your subject reaches volitional exhaustion – 10 beats of age predicted max HR.
Listen for breathing changes and look for HR nearing age predicted max levels, RPE should be near 20.
Look for their ‘1-minute left hand’ signal – when they give the signal open the valve on the final bag and collect all variables as if it is the final minute of a stage even if it is not. Motivate your subject to help them reach the end of a stage if possible.
13. Collect a 5-minute post-exercise blood lactate sample.
14. Remove all mouthpieces/nose clips and place in the sink.
15. Ensure your subject is comfortable.
16. Monitor your subject whilst they recover – do not leave them until you are certain they have recovered fully.
To discuss comparisons between each subjects VO2 max, first, the criteria it is assessed upon must be examined. The current studies data from figure 2 suggests that only subject 1 achieved the VO2 max plateau, while subject 2 in parallel shows little to no evidence of this phenomena. A study by (Dempsey and Wagner, 1999) has suggested that only athletes with a VO2 max >65 ml.min-1.kg-1 are capable of achieving this plateau, our research suggests this as subject 1 achieved a VO2 of 64.46 as shown in figure 2. However, according to (Lucia et al. 2006) their study found that only 32% of their participants had an identifiable plateau even with Vo2 Max results of 65 ml.min-1.kg-1.
Following from the plateau is the Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER), a study conducted by (Diefenthaeler F, et al. 2017 ) has suggested that when RER values are >1 there will be increased CO2 production, which corresponds to an athlete reaching the second ventilatory threshold. Both subjects reached an RER of at least 1.1 as shown in Figures 2 and 3 respectively suggesting that they have reached their second ventilatory threshold as criteria for VO2 max.
The next criteria analysed was the Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) which was utilised throughout the test to ensure their workloads were appropriate as previous studies(Habibi E, et al. 2014) have shown there is a significant relationship between RPE and aerobic capacity. This relationship can be identified when examining figure 3 which shows both subjects RPE increasing as their workload increased until they achieved a maximal value of between 19 and 20. This reinforces the theory that RPE can be used as an indirect indicator of VO2 max.
An interesting observation made with regards to both subjects was that although subject 1 presented with a plateau for their VO2 levels in figure 2 while subject 2 didn’t. The opposite can be observed with regards to heart rate in figure 1 with subject 2 exhibiting a plateau when they reach a workload 330 W. According to a study by(Keiller D, Gordon D, 2017 ) this HR plateau observed in an incremental test suggests that VO2 max has been achieved, but it should be noted both subjects achieved their HR max for their respective ages which have also be used in previous research from (Langeskov-Christensen et al. 2014) as criteria for VO2 max achievement.
The final piece of VO2 max criteria is the 5-minute post blood lactate accumulation, previous research (Langeskov-Christensen et al. 2014) has stated that a post blood lactate level greater than 8.0 mmol/l was required to achieve this. Figure 1 shows that subject 1 achieved a 10.1 mmol/l and figure 2 highlights subject 2 as scoring 9.9 mmol/l meaning they have both achieved this VO2 max criterion.
Subject 1 achieved all 5 different VO2 max criteria and subject 2 achieved 4 out of 5 of the criteria allowing the researchers to feel confident in the validity of their test. When the researchers compared both subjects VO2 max levels against the normative data provided table 4 they observed that subject 1 scored in the superior category and subject 2 in the excellent category, which correlated with the hypothesis that VO2 max levels would decline with age.
With both subjects having similar anthropometric measurements as highlighted in table 1 and cycling performance level the main difference between the pair is age. Past studies (Silva S, et al. 2016) have highlighted age can have an impact on VO2 max due to physiological changes such as a reduction in type 1 muscle fibre types and increase in type 2 creating a difference in mechanical efficiency. Furthermore, a review of 397 reports conducted by (Mcmurray RG, et al 2014) highlighted that the resting value of VO2 decreases with age.
This studies lack of a substantial sample size can be seen as a large limitation as it makes it near impossible to judge any margin of error between subjects or highlight anomalies. To improve on this study in future there should be a use of both genders to make the results ecologically valid. Furthermore, the use of multiple tests similar to research by (Snell P et al., 2007) could provide an improved validity and reliability for this topic.
In conclusion, this research highlighted that age could have an impact on VO2 levels but more in-depth studies with a larger sample size would be useful in the future to help enhance sports scientists knowledge of the subject.
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