Scientists from the University of Colorado have determined that individuals older than 65 who run three times a week will likely burn oxygen at the same rate as a 20-year-old runner. Despite being more than four decades older, these runners spend a similar amount of metabolic energy as their younger counterparts.
Published in the American College of Sports Medicine journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the study tested 15 older and 15 younger runners. Each ran a minimum of three times a week for at least 30 minutes each time during the prior six months.
The subjects were tested on a specialized treadmill that measured the force applied to the running belt. Each person ran for five minutes during each test at different speeds between 4.5 and 6.5 miles per hour. Regardless of running mechanics and technique, the older runners utilized their metabolic energy at a similar rate as the young runners at all speeds.
“Our prior research suggests that the muscles themselves are becoming less efficient. I think of it as your body is like a car. Your body has its own fuel efficiency, and what we’ve seen is that the fuel efficiency in muscles is reduced in older adults that are sedentary or only walk occasionally,” says lead researcher and Professor of Kinesiology Justus Ortega.