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Age-Related Changes in Aerobic Capacity in Individuals with Mental Retardation: A 20-yr Review


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 11 - p 1984-1989
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817f19a1
APPLIED SCIENCES: Physical Fitness and Performance

Introduction: Persons with mental retardation (MR), particularly individuals with Down syndrome (DS), have been found to have attenuated peak exercise responses in previous research. However, it is unknown if the pattern of age-associated changes in HR or aerobic capacity (V˙O2peak) is similar to individuals without disabilities.

Purpose: To investigate age-related changes in aerobic capacity in persons withMR, with and without DS, using a retrospective analysis.

Methods: Data were collected in university research laboratories, using 180 persons with MR without DS, 133 persons with MR with DS, and 322 persons without disabilities in four age categories: 9-15, 16-21, 22-29, and 30-45 yr. Subjects underwent treadmill testing with peak HR and V˙O2peak measurements.

Results: Relative V˙O2peak was lowest for persons with DS across all age groups. V˙O2peak did not change after 16 yr in the individuals with DS, whereas the other groups exhibited a slight decline (∼10 mL·kg−1·min−1) with age. Peak HR was overall different between all three groups (P < 0.001), and the youngest age group had the highest peak HR versus the other three age groups (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Persons with MR without DS exhibit similar age-related changes in V˙O2peak and peak HR as individuals without disabilities. Similar age-related changes were also observed for peak HR in individuals with DS, despite overall lower levels. However, relative V˙O2peak did not decline with age in persons with DS, suggesting that aerobic capacity exhibits a different age-related response in individuals with DS.

1Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL; 2Physical Therapy Department, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS; 3Physical Activity and Sport Sciences Department, University Ramon Llull, Barcelona, SPAIN; and 4Sport Department, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Tracy Baynard, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 906 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2008.

Accepted for publication May 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine