This review provides a pulmonary-focused description of the age-associated changes in the integrative physiology of exercise, including how declining lung function plays a role in promoting multimorbidity in the elderly through limitation of physical function. We outline the ageing of physiological systems supporting endurance activity: 1) coupling of muscle metabolism to mechanical power output; 2) gas transport between muscle capillary and mitochondria; 3) matching of muscle blood flow to its requirement; 4) oxygen and carbon dioxide carrying capacity of the blood; 5) cardiac output; 6) pulmonary vascular function; 7) pulmonary oxygen transport; 8) control of ventilation; and 9) pulmonary mechanics and respiratory muscle function. Deterioration in function occurs in many of these systems in healthy ageing. Between the ages of 25 and 80 years pulmonary function and aerobic capacity each decline by ∼40%. While the predominant factor limiting exercise in the elderly likely resides within the function of the muscles of ambulation, muscle function is (at least partially) rescued by exercise training. The age-associated decline in pulmonary function, however, is not recovered by training. Thus, loss in pulmonary function may lead to ventilatory limitation in exercise in the active elderly, limiting the ability to accrue the health benefits of physical activity into senescence.
Roman, M. A., Rossiter, H. B., & Casaburi, R. (2016, November 1). Exercise, ageing and the lung. European Respiratory Journal. European Respiratory Society. https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.00347-2016