Clinical considerations for the ageing athlete

Shane Brun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Many older people are participating in high-intensity activities and sports. Clinicians need to be aware of the physiology of ageing relative to the demands of higher intensity sport. Patient expectations, comorbidities and medication use are important aspects to consider when advising the ageing athlete appropriately.

This article highlights the important aspects of maintaining a physically active lifestyle. For the ageing athlete, there are differing needs as well as risks associated with higher intensity physical activity. This article will outline how to cater for these needs and minimise the potential risks.

Appreciating the importance of physical activity as a major public health intervention is essential for all clinicians. Ensuring that the ageing athlete is able to participate safely and optimally in higher intensity physical activity is an increasing expectation.
It is apparent that Australians are becoming less physically active.1 As overall life expectancy is increasing,2 proportionally, we are seeing more people in the older age groups participating in competitive and higher intensity sports.3 With the increasing aged and aged-athlete population comes a greater demand for health services able to cater to the needs of the more active older population.

Although the process of ageing is dependent on many extrinsic and intrinsic variables, for the purpose of this paper, the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association definition of 65 years of age or older, or 50–64 years of age with clinically significant chronic conditions and/or functional limitations4 will be used. ‘Athlete’ will be defined as a person who commits to their sport or activity at least five times weekly – and especially those who compete in organised events – with the activity level achieved being more than what is recommended for general health benefits, and resulting in the heart beating significantly faster and accompanied by shortness of breath that makes talking difficult between deep breaths.5 This group of people are often referred to as ‘master’ or ‘veteran athletes’.

This paper will focus on the ageing athlete, as defined above, whose physical demands are significantly greater than their non-athlete, age-matched peers. For this identified group, discussion will focus on the following:

benefits of physical activity
potential risks associated with physical activity and how to minimise these risks
nutritional and hydration needs
use of certain medications and their impact on physical activity, safety and wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-483
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Family Physician
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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