Aerobic Capacity of Elderly People after a Short 6-week Intermittent Exercise Programme

Evelyne Lonsdorfer-Wolf, Stéphane Doutreleau, Ruddy Richard, Bernard Geny, Jean Lonsdorfer


Background: One of the most debilitating effects of advancing age is the progressive decline in aerobic exercise capacity. To prevent this decrease, exercise prescription has been proved to be effective in compensating for the age-associated decline in maximal oxygen capacity.

Methods: 27 healthy sedentary elderly men (10) and women (17) aged 67±7 yr, were involved in a tailored 6-week intermittent exercise programme, with 30 min cycling per session, 3 times a week. One session alternated 4 min at a workload corresponding to the ventilatory threshold (called “bases”) and 1 min to a charge corresponding to 90% of the maximum tolerated power of the subjects (called “peaks”). This was repeated 6 times during one session. To determine these charges, all subjects underwent a 1-minute-step maximal incremental exercise test to find out their maximal tolerated power, peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak), maximal heart rate, and maximal lactate. A second maximal incremental exercise test was performed after the programme, to compare the different parameters.

Results: For the whole group, maximal tolerated power increased from 113±8 watts to 13±9 watts (P < 0.001), VO2 peak increased from 19.8±0.9 ml·kg-1·min-1 to 22.2 ±0.9 ml·kg-1·min-1 (P=0.002), maximal heart rate (143±4 vs 144±4 beats·min-1) and maximal lactate (5.4±0.3 vs 5.7±0.3 mmol·L-1) did not change. VO2 at ventilatory threshold increased from 950±57 ml·min-1 to 1095±69 ml·min-1 (P=0.007), and the corresponding power increased from 65±5 watts to 82±6 watts (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Even after a short time training programme (6 weeks), we observed a significant improvement in aerobic capacity, and especially in sub-maximal workloads, which represented, for these subjects, their daily-life capacity.

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