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Diabetes. 2003 Aug;52(8):1888-96.

Impact of aerobic exercise training on age-related changes in insulin sensitivity and muscle oxidative capacity.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.


Insulin resistance increases and muscle oxidative capacity decreases during aging, but lifestyle changes-especially physical activity-may reverse these trends. Here we report the effect of a 16-week aerobic exercise program (n = 65) or control activity (n = 37) performed by men and women aged 21-87 years on insulin sensitivity and muscle mitochondria. Insulin sensitivity, measured by intravenous glucose tolerance test, decreased with age (r = -0.32) and was related to abdominal fat content (r = -0.65). Exercise increased peak oxygen uptake (VO(2peak); 10%), activity of muscle mitochondrial enzymes (citrate synthase and cytochrome c oxidase, 45-76%) and mRNA levels of mitochondrial genes (COX4, ND4, both 66%) and genes involved in mitochondrial biogenesis (PGC-1alpha, 55%; NRF-1, 15%; TFAM, 85%). Exercise also increased muscle GLUT4 mRNA and protein (30-52%) and reduced abdominal fat (5%) and plasma triglycerides (25%). None of these changes were affected by age. In contrast, insulin sensitivity improved in younger people but not in middle-aged or older groups. Thus, the muscle mitochondrial response to 4 months of aerobic exercise training was similar in all age-groups, although the older people did not have an improvement in insulin sensitivity.

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