Professional athletes may not think much about their childhood exploits when it comes to performance and achievements. However, new research suggests that young children and certain types of athletes might have a lot more in common than what one would think, specifically in terms of recovery from intensive forms of exercise.
In a new study that was extensively cited by Newsweek, a multinational team of researchers separated a group of participants into three groups — 12 boys ranging in age from eight to 12 who didn't undergo regular athletic training, 13 adult endurance athletes at the national competition level, and 12 "unfit" adults. All 37 participants were asked to perform cycling tests, then were tested for different metrics, including their heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and acidosis and lactate levels, the latter of which are both associated with muscle tiredness. The researchers gathered this data to find out whether the group of young boys used aerobic or anaerobic metabolism when exercising.
All in all, the group of children did better than the unfit adults in all of the researchers' tests, with the children's group also beating out the pro athletes' group in terms of recovery from exercise. This was despite the observation that children generally get tired faster than adults do because their cardiovascular systems are still underdeveloped, and because their movements are less efficient due to their smaller frames.
"This new study is significant because we found that the children used more of their aerobic metabolism and were therefore less tired during the high-intensity physical activities than adults," observed Universite Clermont Auvergne associate professor and study co-author Sebastien Ratel, in a statement quoted by Newsweek.
"Children also recovered very quickly, even faster than the well-trained adult endurance athletes, as demonstrated by their faster heart rate recovery and ability to better remove lactate, a metabolic byproduct contributing to muscle fatigue."