Runners over age 60 are the fastest-growing age category. Despite a decrease in strength, power, and flexibility, senior runners maintain their running economy.
If you’re a former runner who’s hung up your trainers or if you’ve been procrastinating about running, new research shows that you're never too old to run. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that the fastest-growing group of runners is the over-60 crowd. And what’s even more encouraging is that senior runners maintain their running economy. In other words, they’re able to use oxygen as efficiently as younger runners—at a certain pace. Differences with age But even though they maintain their running economy, senior runners have lower VO2 max levels and lower maximal heart rates. So although senior runners have the same absolute oxygen uptake value of younger runners, it’s physiologically more difficult to maintain the same speed. Not surprisingly, senior runners fared worse than younger runners on measures of strength, power, and flexibility, factors that help to explain age-related declines in performance. A lack of upper body strength makes it harder to run uphill and decreases the speed at which runners can change speed or direction. Strength training But there is some good news: senior runners can maintain upper body strength through strength training. Strength may decline with age, but it doesn’t take a lot of work to help minimize that loss. Researchers hope to follow this same group of runners over time in a longitudinal study on running performance of aging runners. In the meantime, don’t let age stop you from lacing up your shoes and hitting the road.