Questionnaires (750 respondents, 44.4% response rate) examined the long-term health value of endurance exercise training in older age-classed competitors ('Masters Athletes', 551 men and 199 women) over a 7-year period (1985-1992). The majority had initially completed maximal exercise tests. The weekly time devoted to training, competition and exercise-related travel was 10 to 30 h, and the annual expenditure on clothing, equipment and entrance fees was typically in the range Canadian $500-1500. Despite their age (mean(s.d.) 58(10), current range 40-81 years), only 1.4% reported sustaining a non-fatal heart attack and 0.6% had required bypass surgery over the 7-year interval. The majority (90%) were very interested in good health; 76% considered themselves as less vulnerable to viral illnesses than their peers, and 68% regarded their quality of life as much better than that of their sedentary friends. The majority of former smokers had stopped smoking before they began training, but 37% indicated that exercise had helped them in smoking withdrawal. In keeping with their health-conscious attitude, 59% had regular medical check-ups, and 86% obeyed legislation requiring use of a seat-belt when driving. In contrast with many older people, 88% slept well or very well. Slightly over half of the sample (57%) had sustained some injury which had limited their training for one or more weeks over the 7-year study. Although participation in Masters competition appears to carry considerable health benefits, gains may in part reflect an overall healthy lifestyle.
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