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Variations of Body Mass Index with Age in Masters Athletes (World Masters Games)

Authors: Walsh Joe, Climstein Mike, Heazlewood Ian Timothy, Burke Stephen, Kettunen Jyrki, Adams Kent, DeBeliso Mark


Whilst there is growing evidence that activity across the lifespan is beneficial for improved health, there are also many changes involved with the aging process and subsequently the potential for reduced indices of health. The nexus between health, physical activity and aging is complex and has raised much interest in recent times due to the realization that a multifaceted approached is necessary in order to counteract a growing obesity epidemic. By investigating age based trends within a population adhering to competitive sport at older ages, further insight might be gleaned to assist in understanding one of many factors influencing this relationship. BMI was derived using data gathered on a total of 6,071 masters athletes (51.9% male, 48.1% female) aged 25 to 91 years ( =51.5, s =±9.7), competing at the Sydney World Masters Games (2009). Using linear and loess regression it was demonstrated that the usual tendency for prevalence of higher BMI increasing with age was reversed in the sample. This trend in reversal was repeated for both male and female only sub-sets of the sample participants, indicating the possibility of improved prevalence of BMI with increasing age for both the sample as a whole and these individual subgroups. This evidence of improved classification in one index of health (reduced BMI) for masters athletes (when compared to the general population) implies there are either improved levels of this index of health with aging due to adherence to sport or possibly the reduced BMI is advantageous and contributes to this cohort adhering (or being attracted) to masters sport at older ages. Demonstration of this proportionately under-investigated World Masters Games population having an improved relationship between BMI and increasing age over the general population is of particular interest in the context of the measures being taken globally to curb an obesity epidemic.

Keywords: Sport, Aging, masters athlete, Quetelet Index

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