Physiological Changes in Masters Athletes

23rd November 2023

Ageing is an inevitable process that affects us all, and that applies equally to both active and sedentary individuals. While squash players and other athletes are not exempt from the main physiological changes associated with ageing, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and modifying your training can go some way to buffering certain aspects of the ageing process and help mitigate its effects

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at some of the major physiological changes that are encountered as we age, and see what can be done to best challenge them.


1. Muscle Mass and Strength

One of the most noticeable changes in athletes as they age is a gradual decline in muscle mass and strength. This phenomenon, known as ‘sarcopenia’, generally begins in the third decade of life and accelerates as individuals reach their 50s and beyond. Sarcopenia is influenced by various factors, including hormonal changes, decreased protein synthesis, and a reduction in physical activity.

We regularly highlight the importance of strength as a foundation of athleticism for the squash player here on SquashSkills, and this is another reason that resistance training is so important – even more so as you get older. Athletes should continue to prioritize strength training as they age to counteract the effects of sarcopenia, and ensure they maintain strength and power. Additionally, adjusting resistance training programmes to accommodate age-related changes in recovery times and injury risk is also crucial.


2. Cardiovascular Changes

Squash players will usually have highly efficient cardiovascular systems, but as they age they may experience changes in heart function. The heart’s ability to pump and circulate blood may diminish, leading to a decline in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). This reduction in aerobic capacity can have a significant impact on endurance and performance.

To mitigate these changes, athletes should focus on maintaining aerobic and anaerobic fitness through a properly graduated and individualized training programme. It’s important again however to be mindful of recovery time and injury risk – incorporating lower-impact exercise such as bike sprints and swimming to help reduce joint stress will be beneficial, rather than working too much with high impact court sprint and ghosting activities.


3. Flexibility and Mobility

Flexibility and mobility are vital components of the squash player’s physical makeup, and these qualities can be heavily affected by ageing. Muscles and connective tissues tend to become less pliable as we age, which can lead to a reduced range of motion and an increased risk of certain types of injury.

This can be mitigated by prioritising flexibility exercises and mobility work as part of your training programme, allowing you to maintain and potentially even enhance flexibility as you age. Instead of including it as something of an afterthought at the end of your on-court sessions, start incorporating dedicated mobility sessions into your regular training routine.


4. Bone Density and Joint Health

Ageing athletes may also experience changes in bone density and joint health. Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by a decrease in bone density, can make bones more susceptible to fractures – particularly so in women. Joint problems such as osteoarthritis may also become more prevalent.

To address these concerns, focus on weight-bearing exercises and resistance training to support bone health. Proper nutrition, including adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, is also essential. Joint health is best maintained through the use of proper warm-up routines, joint-specific strengthening exercises, and being mindful of taking additional rest when necessary.


5. Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes play a significant role in the ageing process. For male athletes, a decline in testosterone levels can lead to reduced muscle mass and strength, while female athletes may experience hormonal fluctuations that impact their performance.

Consider working with healthcare professionals who specialize in sports medicine to monitor and manage these hormonal changes, if you feel this is of particular concern to you. Hormone replacement therapy may be suggested for some individuals in certain cases, but the risks and benefits should be carefully evaluated.


6. Recovery and Injury Risk

Ageing athletes may find that their bodies require more time to recover from intense training sessions. This increased recovery time can affect training frequency and intensity. Additionally, the risk of injuries, particularly overuse related issues, tends to rise with age.

To address these challenges, it’s essential for regular squash players to pay close attention to recovery strategies. Adequate sleep, properly structured training, and a focus on healthy eating are crucial, while targeted recovery techniques such as massage and foam rolling can also potentially aid in reducing the risk of injuries and optimizing performance.



Ageing is a natural part of life, and neither amateur nor professional athletes are immune to its effects. With knowledge and proactive measures however, there’s no reason why you cannot continue to excel in your squash as you get older, if you embrace the changes that come with ageing and adapt your training regime accordingly. By staying informed about the physiological changes associated with ageing and tailoring training programmes to address these challenges, squash players of all levels can continue to pursue their passion and achieve their performance goals throughout their lives. Age is just a number after all, and with the right approach, athletes can continue to thrive and enjoy their athletic pursuits deep into their later years.


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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