18 March 2019

Kids vs. Endurance Athletes

Energizer Bunny (from
Welcome back. Today’s blog post is dedicated to the parents of all those young Energizer Bunnies that just keep going and going and going.

A study by collaborating researchers from France’s Clermont-Auvergne University, Australia’s Edith Cowan University and the French Rowing Federation found that, exercise-wise, young children are on par with endurance athletes.

Test Participants
The researchers tested three groups of volunteers: 12 boys, age 8 to 12; 13 endurance-trained male athletes, age 19 to 27; and 12 untrained men, age 19 to 23.

To be included, the boys and untrained men had to be healthy but spending no more than 4 hours per week performing recreational physical activity, with neither aerobic training nor vigorous physical activity. The athletes were national-level competitors (long-distance runners, cyclists, triathletes), engaged in long distance physical activities at least 6 times per week for at least 2 years.

The boys were prepubescent based on somatic maturity, which was assessed using age from peak height velocity (the period where maximum rate of growth occurs) and determined from height, sitting height and body mass.

Two Experimental Sessions
Each volunteer was tested in two experimental sessions at least 48 hours apart to obtain measures of the two ways their bodies produce energy--aerobic, using oxygen from the blood, and anaerobic, which produces acidosis and lactate.

Cyclus 2 ergometer used for
Wingate cycle test
During the first session, the researchers evaluated body characteristics and composition, somatic maturity and the power at maximum oxygen uptake. Also, the volunteers had to perform two short sprints on a cycle ergometer with a prescribed resistance.

During the second session, the volunteers performed the commonly employed Wingate cycle test to determine the maximal anaerobic power, fatigue rate, relative (net) energy contribution derived from oxidative metabolism and the post-exercise recovery rates of blood lactate concentration, heart rate and oxygen uptake.

Experimental Results
The results showed that untrained adults fatigued much more than the boys, whose net contribution of energy derived from aerobic metabolism and rate of fatigue were similar to that of the endurance athletes.

The boys’ post-exercise recovery of oxygen uptake and heart rates were respectively similar to and faster than those of the endurance athletes. The removal ability of lactate from the blood compartment was also higher in the boys than in the athletes, which could explain why the boys’ rate and magnitude of fatigue were similar to the athletes and why the boys recovered faster from high-intensity exercise.

Recovery of net heart rate (peak – baseline) as % of initial value after Wingate test in children, untrained adults and athletes (stars, dollar signs and section signs refer to levels of significance between values) (from www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2018.00387/full).
Wrap Up
Overall, the study found that, physiologically, prepubescent boys could be considered comparable to well-trained, adult male endurance athletes, despite having a lower work capacity. While the results seem clear, I would think it useful to repeat the study with a larger number of participants and females.

Based on the study results, the researchers note that prepubescent children may not need specific training to develop their aerobic metabolic competence. Other strategies they suggest to improve exercise performance include anaerobic exercises and movement technique training to improve mechanical efficiency.

Given that maturation and growth processes adversely affect oxidative energy production in exercising muscle, they advise that aerobic training may be a priority in pubescent and post-pubescent children to maintain their aerobic potential and delay development of exercise-induced fatigue.

Sorry, there’s no advice for how parents can keep up. Thanks for stopping by.

Exercise study comparing children with adults in Frontiers in Physiology journal: www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2018.00387/full
Article on study on ScienceDaily website: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424083907.htm
Somatic maturity assessment used in study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal: journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2002/04000/An_assessment_of_maturity_from_anthropometric.20.aspx
General background from Wikipedia:
- Wingate cycle test: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wingate_test
- Aerobic exercise: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobic_exercise
- Anaerobic exercise: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic_exercise

A version of this blog post appeared earlier on www.warrensnotice.com.

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