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Ann Biomed Eng. 2013 Jun;41(6):1120-8. doi: 10.1007/s10439-013-0796-4. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Effect of age and exercise on the viscoelastic properties of rat tail tendon.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Tendon mechanical properties are thought to degrade during aging but improve with exercise. A remaining question is whether exercise in aged animals provides sufficient regenerative, systemic stimulus to restore younger mechanical behaviors. Herein we address that question with tail tendons from aged and exercised rats, which would be subject to systemic effects but not direct loading from the exercise regimen. Twenty-four month old rats underwent one of three treadmill exercise training protocols for 12 months: sedentary (walking at 0° incline for 5 min/day), moderate (running at 0° incline for 30 min/day), or high (running at 4° incline for 30 min/day). A group of 9 month old rats were used to provide an adult control, while a group of 3 month old rats provided a young control. Tendons were harvested at sacrifice and mechanically tested. Results show significant age-dependent differences in modulus, ultimate stress, relaxation rate, and percent relaxation. Relaxation rate was strain-dependent, consistent with nonlinear superposition or Schapery models but not with quasilinear viscoelasticity (QLV). Trends in exercise data suggest that with exercise, tendons assume the elastic character of younger rats (lower elastic modulus and ultimate stress).

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