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Joel Stager
Kinesiology Professor

Last modified: Monday, April 19, 2004

Researchers look for link between anti-aging and swimming

How fast might Olympians swim? Ask IUB faculty

Photo by: Chris Meyer

Joel Stager is a professor of kinesiology in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. He also directs the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming.

Print-Quality Photo

EDITORS: Reporters can talk to Indiana University Bloomington Professor of Kinesiology Joel Stager at the United States Masters Swimming Short Course National Championship. The event will be held from April 22-25 at the IU Natatorium on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus in downtown Indianapolis. Stager also can discuss recently completed predictions for swim times at the 2004 Olympic trials in July and the Olympics in August. Stager's statistical approach to swim times in the past has called into question claims of "fast" swimsuits and can be used, for example, to predict the chances that U.S. 1,500-meter swimmers can set a world record (thus winning $1 million).

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Everybody gets older, right? Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington aren't so certain.

Professor of Kinesiology Joel Stager and his research team from the IUB Human Performance Lab will assess swimmers at the United States Masters Swimming Short Course National Championship in Indianapolis later this month to see how their biological age compares with their chronological age. Susie Swimmer, for example, might be 45 but have the physical capacity of a 35-year-old.

Stager's team plans on conducting a battery of tests on volunteers, who will receive their test results at no cost, to gauge such age markers as muscle mass and strength, pulmonary function and blood chemistry. The functional capacity of these markers typically declines by 0.5 percent to 1 percent per year with aging. The data collected from the swimmers will be compared to similar data collected on the general population.

If funding becomes available, Stager and his team would like to assess swimmers annually at the USMS national championship. USMS accepts swimmers age 19 and up, which would be convenient for research purposes. Swim meet participants typically are divided evenly between men and women. All of the participants swim as part of their fitness program.

"We're looking at what we think are the best of the best," said Stager, who directs the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming in IUB's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Stager and Research Associate Dave Tanner also have completed their predictions for winning times at the U.S. Olympic trials in July and for the Olympics in August. Their statistical work uses a power curve to illustrate how swimming times have improved over the past 36 years.

"Blips," or times that do not fall along the curve, generally point to something fishy, Stager said. Such a blip occurred below the curve for women's times in 1976. Later, it was learned the East German swimmers had used steroids. Another blip occurred in 1992. It later was learned that the female Chinese swimmers had used steroids, Stager said.

A blip did not occur when new, full-length body suits premiered in swim contests four years ago. The manufacturers of the suits claimed they improved swim times. Stager said his statistics showed they had no impact. This year, sportswear manufacturers again are selling expensive, full-length swimsuits that are supposed to improve swim times. Stager said their statistics will be able to evaluate this as well.

IUB is home to one of the premier collegiate swimming programs in the country. Forty-eight Olympic medalists swam for the Hoosiers.

Stager can be reached in the days before and after the USMS championship at 812-855-1637 and Reporters interested in talking to him at the swim meet can either have him paged through an announcement at the natatorium or look for the research team as it conducts the assessments.