Purpose and Methods: Competitive indoor rowing performance times of 2487 men ages 24 to 93, and 1615 women ages 24-84 collected from a composite ranking of regional, national, and international indoor rowing competitions were analyzed to determine the impact of age and gender on ergometer rowing performance.
Results: For all subjects age was only modestly correlated with performance in men or women (r = 0.58 and 0.46, respectively). When regression analysis was restricted to only the 95th percentile of each 2-yr age increment (119 men, 79 women), age was a powerful predictor of performance variance in men and women(≈90%). In the top men, the pattern of performance decline was curvilinear. Between ages 24 and 50, performance decline was only 3% per decade, compared to 7% from ages 50 to 74. The pattern of performance decline in women was essentially linear across the same 50-yr age span.
Conclusion: Performance time to power output conversion revealed that men and women lose absolute power at a similar rate across the age span analyzed. However, their different starting positions on the exponential power-velocity curve create distinct differences in the pattern of performance decline and the maintenance of relative power. These data suggest that differences in the effect of aging on performance across different endurance sports are caused more by physics than physiology.