Veteran team sport players have great heart health


We all know that physical activity is beneficial for several risk factors of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. We also know that if we improve our aerobic fitness we increase our chances of living longer. However, despite this knowledge, the number of people meeting the recommendations for physical activity is lowest in older people. Why? Because with normal ageing, body fat increases and muscle mass decreases and these changes are more evident in the physically inactive than active people. Obesity is related to several metabolic and cardiovascular diseases and obese men have been shown to have 2.6 times higher mortality from cardiovascular disease than normal weight men.

Research has shown a strong relationship between low cardiorespiratory fitness and mortality in normal-weight, overweight, and obese men. Research has also shown that lean unfit men had higher risk ratios for cardiovascular and all-cause mortality than obese but fit men. These findings highlight the importance of endurance fitness in older people to prevent heart disease and live longer. Moreover, no differences in risk ratios were found between lean and obese but fit men.

Research has also shown that higher levels of endurance fitness are related to more vigorous training rather then low to moderate intensity endurance training.  In team sports, a recent study has shown that the exercise intensity is high during recreational soccer independent of age, gender, the level of training and social background and that recreational soccer is an effective health-promoting activity for untrained men and women aged 20–45 years.

But is recreational soccer a health-promoting activity for the very old? This study aimed to investigate whether lifelong participation in recreational soccer results in superior exercise capacity and cardiovascular health status for elderly (65-85 years old) in comparison to age-matched active men with no regular exercise training as well as strength-trained and endurance-trained elderly men.


A number of performance measures and indicators of cardiovascular health were measured in elderly soccer players (n = 11) compared to endurance-trained (n = 8), strength-trained (n = 7) and untrained (n = 7) age-matched men. The 33 men aged 65–85 years underwent a testing protocol including measurements of cycling performance, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and body composition, with muscle fibre type and capillarisation determined from a muscle biopsy from the thigh.


In the veteran soccer players, peak aerobic power on the bike was significantly greater (203 ± 20 watts) than in the untrained older men (150 ± 16 watts) and strength-trained men (156 ± 22 watts), but similar to the performance of the endurance-trained older men (201 ± 38 watts). Fat percentage was significantly lower in the veteran soccer players (21.8 ± 4.9%) than the untrained men (28.3 ± 2.1%) but not the endurance-trained (20.7 ± 4.4%) or strength-trained older men (21.7 ± 6.4%). VO2max was not significantly different in the soccer players (30.2 ± 4.9 ml O2 · min−1 · kg−1) compared to untrained (only 14% higher) and ST (only 9% higher), but 22% lower than the endurance-trained older men. The number of capillaries per fibre (a measuer of blood carrying capacity in muscles) was significantly higher  (almost double) in the soccer players compared to both the untrained and strength-trained men but similar to that of the endurance-trained men.

So what?

The scandinavian and UK researchers concluded that both the exercise performance and cardiovascular health profile of lifelong veteran soccer players are markedly better than for age-matched untrained males. Moreover, the exercise capacity and muscle aerobic capacity of veteran soccer players are also superior to lifelong strength-trained athletes and comparable to veteran endurance athletes. Given how important endurance capacity is for reducing cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, the study strongly supports older individuals engaging in team sports to enhance the quality and quantity of life into older age.

Source: Randers and others (2014). . Journal of Sports Sciences, 32(13): 1300-1308.


Masters Athletes Aren’t Recovering Smart


Using recovery strategies after training and racing means we bounce back quicker for the next training session or race. Most elite younger athletes eat and drink the right stuff straight after races or training, they get massages and use the methods science has shown work, such as compression garments or ice baths. As part of a series of PhD projects my research team are undertaking at CQUniversity, we’ve just completed an online survey examining the use of recovery practices in Queensland veteran cyclists. The results were recently presented at the 2013 American College of Sports Medicine Conference in the USA where one of my postgrads won the International Student Scholar Award – a very proud supervisor I was! The results shocked us! Very few vet cyclists use recovery strategies!

The Research and Results

Using an online survey and the support of Cycling Queensland, we got responses from 212 veteran cyclists over the age of 35 years. To our surprise, 47% of both male and female veteran cyclists do not using any form of recovery strategy after racing or training.  The percentage of users did not differ between genders.  In order of use, the following recovery methods were used by the vets as a group:

  1. Stretching (40% of riders)
  2. Carbohydrate-protein mix (38%)
  3. Active recovery (35%)
  4. High glycemic index foods within 30 minutes of exercise (29%)
  5. Massage (25%)
  6. Compression garments (25%)
  7. Hot-cold showers (19%)
  8. Ice baths (7%)
  9. Pool running (6%)
  10. Spa baths (5%)

Other strategies were used including ‘beers’ and one response that we can all relate to at times –  3 double-shot lattes, a lay down on the couch and hoping not to cramp-up!!

The So What?

Our research strongly suggests that both male and female veteran cyclists are poor users of recovery strategies following both training and competition. Using these scientifically-proven methods of recovery is critical to enable us to bounce back between training days or between races on the same or subsequent days.  For specific details (e.g. water temperatures, times to hold stretches or have hot/cold showers, what specific foods to eat etc etc) on how to recover using all the methods outlined above, see chapter 15 of my book The Masters Athlete.

Source: Reaburn, P. and others (2013). Poor Use Of Post-exercise Recovery Strategies In Veteran Cyclists: An Australian Study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45(5): S71.


Running injuries – what does the science say about preventing them?

The research confirms it – the younger you are in an age-group, the greater your chances of winning!

The IntroductionMasters Podium

Most competitive masters athletes, and I include myself, know it’s best to ‘hit’ a five- or ten-year age group in the first couple of years to maximize your chances of doing well. Sport scientists call this ‘relative age’ – you are the ‘baby’ of the age group relative to others in the age-bracket. Cross-sectional studies have previously done on masters swimmers and track and field athletes and indeed studies have compared the two sports and even compared this trend across countries. Yep, the younger you are, the better your chances of winning a medal! A recent Ozzie study by Nikola Medic from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia took a longitudinal view and examined the participation of thousands of US masters swimmers in national championships over a six-year period. The results showed that the odds of a Masters swimmer participating in the championship during the first year of any five-year age category was more than two times greater than the odds of that athlete participating during the fifth year.

The Research

Using archived data from the 2003 to 2009 US Masters Short Course National Championships, swimmers’ attendance was followed for a period of six consecutive years. Their participation was analysed to see whether they were more likely to compete in at the younger age of an age-group or the older end.

The Results

The results indicated that a participation-related relative age effect was observed among swimmers who, over a period of six years, competed in either at least one championship or at least three championships. Overall, the analysis indicated that the odds of a Masters swimmer participating in the championship during the first year of any five-year age category was more than two times greater than the odds of that athlete participating in the final year of that age-group.

The So What?

The results support what most competitive age-groupers know. If you want to win a medal, best to do it at the beginning of an age group. The sad fact of life is that most of us are slowing down as we age, even if keep training hard, hitting the gym and looking after ourselves. Sadly, as we get older every year we lose muscle mass and our maximum heart rate slows down, factors that mean we find it harder to compete against the ‘youngsters’ in our age group.

 Medic, N., Young, B. and Medic, D. (2011). Participation-related relative age effects in Masters swimming: A 6-year retrospective longitudinal analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences. 29(1): 29 – 36.

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Competitive Masters Athletes Can’t Train Like They Used To Do