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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 May 1;122(5):1068-1076. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00775.2016. Epub 2016 Dec 8.

Recovery of central and peripheral neuromuscular fatigue after exercise.

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Centre for Sensorimotor Performance, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland; and
Neuroscience Research Australia and University of New South Wales.


Sustained physical exercise leads to a reduced capacity to produce voluntary force that typically outlasts the exercise bout. This "fatigue" can be due both to impaired muscle function, termed "peripheral fatigue," and a reduction in the capacity of the central nervous system to activate muscles, termed "central fatigue." In this review we consider the factors that determine the recovery of voluntary force generating capacity after various types of exercise. After brief, high-intensity exercise there is typically a rapid restitution of force that is due to recovery of central fatigue (typically within 2 min) and aspects of peripheral fatigue associated with excitation-contraction coupling and reperfusion of muscles (typically within 3-5 min). Complete recovery of muscle function may be incomplete for some hours, however, due to prolonged impairment in intracellular Ca2+ release or sensitivity. After low-intensity exercise of long duration, voluntary force typically shows rapid, partial, recovery within the first few minutes, due largely to recovery of the central, neural component. However, the ability to voluntarily activate muscles may not recover completely within 30 min after exercise. Recovery of peripheral fatigue contributes comparatively little to the fast initial force restitution and is typically incomplete for at least 20-30 min. Work remains to identify what factors underlie the prolonged central fatigue that usually accompanies long-duration single joint and locomotor exercise and to document how the time course of neuromuscular recovery is affected by exercise intensity and duration in locomotor exercise. Such information could be useful to enhance rehabilitation and sports performance.


central fatigue; endurance; exercise; muscle fatigue; recovery

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