Postprint version. Published in Age, Volume 29, Issue 2-3, September 1, 2007, pages 77-85.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Ann Y. McDermott was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-007-9034-z.
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.