Cardiovascular Adaptations to Exercise Training in Older Adults

What is the association between cardiovascular fitness and healthy aging? How do endurance exercise training intensity and duration (short versus long-term training) affect cardio fitness in the elderly?

With the advancement of technology and medicine over the years, it is well established that there is a much larger proportion of the population that is aged 65 years and older, and this statistic is only growing. These advancements have allowed humans to live longer, but not necessarily in a better state. It has been shown that overall disability, prominence of disease, and decrease in independence has been matched by the aging population (1). Statistics have shown that physical activity can help to preserve health and independence in older adults, however it has also been demonstrated that regardless of maintenance of physical activity as one ages, there is an inevitable decline in cardiovascular fitness that occurs. VO2max, or the maximal volume of oxygen consumed by the body, has been shown to decrease by 0.5% per decade in highly trained runners, but also up to a 1.5% decline per decade in moderately trained or untrained individuals (2). The key factor in healthy aging is preventing this decline in VO2 as much as possible as the population ages. In doing so, older adults can maintain independence, easily perform activities of daily living, obtain the benefits of cardiovascular training such as decreased chance of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses (1,2).

Researchers are well aware that physiological training can improve cardiovascular fitness, and in turn reduce disability and improve independence of the older adult population (3). One study in particular shows that after 9-12 months of cardiovascular endurance training, the sample of older adults VO2max’s improved by an average of 23%. The study demonstrated that the higher the intensity of the cardiovascular training, the greater the resulting increase and adaptation to training (3).

If we can get our older family members and friends to go for walks, bike rides, hikes, or runs throughout the aging process, and maintain that activity into old age, not only will we decrease the burden on the national health care system, but our loved ones will live with higher independence and functionality into old age, while fighting off disease for longer. Refer a loved one today to start an exercise program! See "Programs" for more information!


1. Daley, M. J., & Spinks, W. L. (2000). Exercise , Mobility and Aging. Journal of Sport Medicine, 29(1), 1–12.

2. Trappe, S. (2007). Marathon_runners__how_do_they_.PDF. Indiana, USA: Journal of Sports Medicine.

3. Coggan, a R., Spina, R. J., King, D. S., Rogers, M. a, Brown, M., Nemeth, P. M., & Holloszy, J. O. (1992). Skeletal muscle adaptations to endurance training in 60- to 70-yr-old men and women. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 72(5), 1780–6. Retrieved from

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