Purpose: This cross-sectional study compared the oxygen uptake at the gas exchange threshold (GET) and its relation to age between highly trained competitive speed–power athletes (SP), endurance athletes, and untrained participants.
Methods: A total of 199 men ages 20–90 yr were examined: 51 SP, 87 endurance runners (ER), and 61 untrained individuals (UT). Physiological parameters at GET were obtained during a graded treadmill test until exhaustion: oxygen uptake (V˙O2GET), HRGET, and oxygen pulse (O2 PulseGET). Information about training history and volume was collected. A linear model of regression was adopted.
Results: Average V˙O2GET was lower in the SP than that in ER group but significantly higher in the SP than that in UT group across the whole age range. Absolute rate of decline in V˙O2GET was smaller in the SP than ER group and smallest in the UT group (0.38, 0.56, and 0.22 mL·kg−1·min−1·yr−1, respectively). Percentage decline per decade did not differ between groups (7.9%–8.7%). Above the age of 50 yr, absolute and percentage rates of decline were considerably lower in the SP than ER group (0.24 vs 0.65 mL·kg−1·min−1·yr−1 and 7.2% vs 13.4% per decade, respectively). About the age of 85, the predicted level of V˙O2GET in the SP group was close to that of the ER group. The training volume correlated significantly with V˙O2GET in athletes (r = 0.67–0.70). Main predictors of O2GET were V˙O2 PulseGET and HRGET (89.9%–95.6% and 4.1%–9.8% of explained variance, respectively).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that the “speed–power model” of lifelong physical activity is associated with an elevated level of V˙O2GET and its relatively slow age-related decline.