Are masters athletic performances predictive of human aging in men and women?

Jonathon W. Senefeld, Sandra K. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human aging particularly after ∼70 years, is associated with declines in physical function and athletic performance, that are accelerated in part by age-associated declines in physical activity and exercise training. Because elite athletes maintain high levels of physical activity across the lifespan, older athletes (Masters) may present as a proxy for healthy human aging. Although longitudinal studies are most informative about human aging, there are substantial practical challenges to conducting longitudinally designed research. Masters athletic records and comparisons of performance across age groups can serve as a practical and unique probe to predict the trajectory of human function throughout the lifespan. While useful, the cross-sectional comparison of elite athletic performance across different age groups, however, has inherent limitations in predicting healthy human aging, particularly among women. This review presents evidence that (1) there is a progressive age-related decline in world class performances in freestyle swim swimming, marathon, and triathlon, that accelerates into very old age (∼70 years), and (2) lower participation rates of women relative to men results in an overestimation of the age-related decline in athletic performance particularly in very old women. Thus, while useful, there are some limitations to predicting biological aging among women using current Masters Athletic performances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-12
Number of pages8
JournalMovement and Sports Sciences - Science et Motricite
Issue number104
StatePublished - 2019


  • Marathon
  • Sex differences
  • Swimming
  • Triathlon
  • différences entre les sexes
  • marathon
  • natation
  • triathlon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Physiology (medical)


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