Oxygen-uptake (VO2) kinetics and functional mobility performance in impaired older adults

Neil B. Alexander, Donald R. Dengel, Rebecca J. Olson, Katheryn M. Krajewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Background. Measures of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) are limited in disabled older adults, and measures of submaximal oxygen uptake (VO2) may better predict functional mobility limitations. These measures may include oxygen-uptake kinetics at the onset of submaximal exercise or during recovery. We sought to determine whether the lag in oxygen uptake at the beginning of exercise (oxygen deficit) and excess oxygen uptake above rest following exercise (excess postexercise oxygen consumption) (a) predict physical performance in impaired older adults with decreased aerobic function, and (b) predict physical performance better than peak VO2. Methods. Two groups of community-dwelling volunteers aged 65 or older were recruited according to their performance on a maximal graded exercise test. Using the Social Security Administration criterion of disability of a peak VO2 ≤ 18 ml/kg/min, we compared the performance of an impaired aerobic capacity group at a peak VO2 < 18 ml/kg/min (Impaired, n = 20, mean ± SEM age 82 ± 1 years) with an unimpaired group at Peak VO 2 > 18 (Unimpaired, n = 21, mean ± SEM age 76 ± 1 years). Results. The mean ± SEM peak VO2 was 58% lower in the Impaired (14 ± 1 ml/kg/min) than the Unimpaired (24 ± 1 ml/kg/min) adults. The time constant for oxygen deficit, tcdeficit, was more than twice as high in the Impaired than the Unimpaired (p < .05), and the time constant for excess postexercise oxygen consumption, tcEPOC, tended to be higher in the Impaired than the Unimpaired (by 43%, p = .09). Measures of submaximal oxygen-uptake kinetics were as strong or more strongly predictive of functional mobility performance than peak VO2 in both Unimpaired and Impaired older adults. The major predictor of functional performance for the Unimpaired was a measure of oxygen deficit accruing during exercise (tcdeficit), and for the Impaired, it was a measure of oxygen debt during recovery, tcEPOC. Conclusions. Measurement of submaximal oxygen-uptake kinetics may provide a more practical and relevant assessment of deconditioning in frail older adults, and may eventually supplant maximal (peak) oxygen uptake as a predictor of functional disability in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-739
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


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