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Endurance exercise training enhances exercise tolerance and ultimately improves the performance of young athletes
A large number of young athletes train for competitive sport before puberty, yet the understanding of their capabilities to benefit from endurance training is limited.1,2 Many studies of endurance trainability of children have methodological flaws. Most investigations that have involved adequate intensity, type, and duration of training have shown in children the qualitative changes expected from adults, although children may need a greater exercise intensity than adults to trigger cardiovascular adaptations to training.3
PHYSIOLOGY OF ENDURANCE EXERCISE
Maximal oxygen uptake (Vo2max) is the key cardiorespiratory determinant of endurance exercise. Not all children and adolescents fulfil the adult criteria of obtaining Vo2max by reaching a plateau in oxygen consumption (Vo2). Peak Vo2, the highest level of Vo2 elicited during an exercise test to exhaustion, is considered a more appropriate index for determining the endurance exercise potential in children.1,2
Another critical variable for endurance performance is anaerobic threshold (AT). In its original concept, AT described the specific level of work below which metabolic acidosis and the associated changes in gas exchange occurred. However, blood lactate levels probably reflect the balance between lactate production and elimination rather than the onset of cellular anaerobiosis. The identification of the threshold point has been circumvented by the use of fixed blood lactate reference levels, although it should be acknowledged that the specific theoretical underpinning of the use of the 4.0 mM level in adults is quite different from that of the classical AT.3 As children can exercise close to exhaustion without exceeding a blood lactate of 4.0 mmol/l, an alternative 2.5 mmol/l level is considered more appropriate.3 The cut off age for when this level is …