Age-associated power decline from running, jumping, and throwing male masters world records

Paolo Gava, Helmut Kern, Ugo Carraro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Study Context: The capacity to perform everyday tasks is directly related to the muscular power the body can develop (see Appendix). The age-related loss of power is a fact, but the characterization or the rate of muscle power loss remains an open issue. Data useful to study the decline of the skeletal muscles power are largely available from sources other than medical tests, e.g., from track and field competitions of Masters athletes. The aim of our study is to identify the age-related decline trend of the power developed by the athletes in carrying out the track and field events.Methods: Absolute male world records of 16 events were collected along with world records of male Masters categories. Performance was normalized with respect to the absolute record; the performance of various age groups is consequently represented by a number ranging from 1 (world absolute records) to 0 (null performance). The performance of a jumping event is transformed into a parameter proportional to the power developed by the athletes: the displacement of the center of gravity of the athlete. Throwing events are further normalized for the decreasing weight of the implements with the increasing age of the Masters athletes.Results: Most track and field events show a linear decline to 70 years. The annual rate of power decline for all the events (running, throwing, and jumping), using a simplified synthesis, is 1.25% per year. The events that involve mostly upper limbs (shot put, javelin throw) show a higher rate of decline (1.4% per year) compared to those where the lower limbs are mostly involved (long jump 1.1%, track events 0.6-0.7% per year). This analysis of muscle power decline is only partially in line with the results of works based on clinical tests. A clarification of the reasons for such discrepancy may provide clinically significant information.Conclusion: Human power decline in Masters athletes was analyzed, adopting a coherent approach based on an extended database. Skeletal muscle power starts declining after the age of 30, with slight variations depending on the events. This conclusion is in line with only some of the previous studies. The various trend lines point to 0 at the age of 110 years, which is in line with the present human survival age. The study can be further developed with a suitable database for male and female Masters performances to facilitate longitudinal studies, which are currently lacking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-135
Number of pages21
JournalExperimental Aging Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Ageing
  • Psychology(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)


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