July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Not only have elite athletes gotten much larger and faster than they were a century ago, they've increased size at a much more rapid rate than the general population, say U.S. researchers.
Duke University engineers looked at the heights and weights of swimmers and runners who won world records since 1900 and then correlated the size growth of the athletes with their winning times.
The average human has gained about 1.9 inches in height since 1900, but the fastest swimmers have gained 4.5 inches and the fastest runners have grown 6.4 inches.
"The trends revealed by our analysis suggest that speed records will continue to be dominated by heavier and taller athletes," engineering student Jordan Charles said in a news release.
The study was published online in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Using the information they gathered, the researchers can predict running speeds during Greek and Roman times.
"In antiquity, body weights were roughly 70 percent less than they are today. Using our theory, a 100-meter dash that is won in 13 seconds would have taken about 14 seconds back then," Charles said.
SOURCE: Duke University, news release, July 17, 2009