Postprint version. Published in Age, Volume 29, Issue 2-3, September 1, 2007, pages 77-85. Copyright © 2007 Springer. The original publication is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11357-007-9034-z.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Ann Y. McDermott was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
Our purpose was to examine the effects of age and gender on physical performance. We assessed a one-hour swimming performance and participation of 4,271 presumably healthy men and women, aged 19–91 years, from the 2001–2003 United States Masters Swimming long-distance (1 h) national competition. The decline in performance with increasing age was found to be quadratic rather than linear. The equation which best fit variation in 1 h swimming distance in meters (m) according to variations in age in years (y) in men was: distance (m) = 4058 + 2.18 age−0.29 age (http://www.acsmmsse.org/pt/re/msse/positionstandards.htm;jsessionid=DiRVACC7YS3mq27s5kV3vwpEVSokmmD1ZJLC7pdnol3KcfoSu0t!1096311956!-949856145!9001!-1), with the same equation for women except that 380 m needed to be subtracted from the calculated value at all ages (about a 10% difference). There was a large overlap in performance between men and women. The overall mean decline in performance with age was about 50% and was parallel in men and women. The mean difference in distance for a 1-year increment in age was −9.7 m at 21 y of age, −21.3 m at 40 y, and −44.5 m at 80 y. Far greater declines of about 96% in numbers participating with advanced age (80 y and over, 4% of peak numbers) were observed than in the 40–49 y age group. In conclusion, the declines in performance were parallel in men and women at all ages, and the 1-year age-related declines in performance were about twice as great at 40 y and more than four-times as great at 80 y than at 20 y of age, with even greater age-related declines in participation being noted for both men and women.