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Exp Gerontol. 2014 Feb;50:106-13. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2013.11.013. Epub 2013 Dec 3.

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model for the study of aging and exercise: physical ability and trainability decrease with age.

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Department of Biology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Biology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Electronic address:


A rapidly aging global population has motivated the development and use of models for human aging. Studies on aging have shown parallels between zebrafish and humans at the internal organization level; however, few parallels have been studied at the whole-organism level. Furthermore, the effectiveness of exercise as a method to mitigate the effects of aging has not been studied in zebrafish. We investigated the effects of aging and intermittent exercise on swimming performance, kinematics and behavior. Young, middle-aged and old zebrafish (20-29, 36-48 and 60-71% of average lifespan, respectively) were exercised to exhaustion in endurance and sprint swimming tests once a week for four weeks. Both endurance and sprint performance decreased with increased age. Swimming performance improved with exercise training in young and middle-aged zebrafish, but not in old zebrafish. Tail-beat amplitude, which is akin to stride length in humans, increased for all age groups with training. Zebrafish turning frequency, which is an indicator of routine activity, decreased with age but showed no change with exercise. In sum, our results show that zebrafish exhibit a decline in whole-organism performance and trainability with age. These findings closely resemble the senescence-related declines in physical ability experienced by humans and mammalian aging models and therefore support the use of zebrafish as a model for human exercise and aging.


Aging; BL; Exercise; Swimming behavior; Swimming performance; TBA; TBF; U(crit); U(max); Zebrafish; f(T); fps; frames per second; maximum endurance swimming speed; maximum sprint swimming speed; standard body length; tail-beat amplitude; tail-beat frequency; turning frequency

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