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Am J Sports Med. 1998 Jul-Aug;26(4):598-602.

The effects of aging and training on skeletal muscle.

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Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Aging results in a gradual loss of muscle function, and there are predictable age-related alterations in skeletal muscle function. The typical adult will lose muscle mass with age; the loss varies according to sex and the level of muscle activity. At the cellular level, muscles loose both cross-sectional area and fiber numbers, with type II muscle fibers being the most affected by aging. Some denervation of fibers may occur. The combination of these factors leads to an increased percentage of type 1 fibers in older adults. Metabolically, the glycolytic enzymes seem to be little affected by aging, but the aerobic enzymes appear to decline with age. Aged skeletal muscle produces less force and there is a general "slowing" of the mechanical characteristics of muscle. However, neither reduced muscle demand nor the subsequent loss of function is inevitable with aging. These losses can be minimized or even reversed with training. Endurance training can improve the aerobic capacity of muscle, and resistance training can improve central nervous system recruitment of muscle and increase muscle mass. Therefore, physical activity throughout life is encouraged to prevent much of the age-related impact on skeletal muscle.

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