Aerobic exercise training induces skeletal muscle hypertrophy and age-dependent adaptations in myofiber function in young and older men

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Nov;113(9):1495-504. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00786.2012. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


To examine potential age-specific adaptations in skeletal muscle size and myofiber contractile physiology in response to aerobic exercise, seven young (YM; 20 ± 1 yr) and six older men (OM; 74 ± 3 yr) performed 12 wk of cycle ergometer training. Muscle biopsies were obtained from the vastus lateralis to determine size and contractile properties of isolated slow [myosin heavy chain (MHC) I] and fast (MHC IIa) myofibers, MHC composition, and muscle protein concentration. Aerobic capacity was higher (P < 0.05) after training in both YM (16 ± 2%) and OM (13 ± 3%). Quadriceps muscle volume, determined via MRI, was 5 ± 1 and 6 ± 1% greater (P < 0.05) after training for YM and OM, respectively, which was associated with an increase in MHC I myofiber cross-sectional area (CSA), independent of age. MHC I peak power was higher (P < 0.05) after training for both YM and OM, while MHC IIa peak power was increased (P < 0.05) with training in OM only. MHC I and MHC IIa myofiber peak and normalized (peak force/CSA) force were preserved with training in OM, while MHC I peak force/CSA and MHC IIa peak force were lower (P < 0.05) after training in YM. The age-dependent adaptations in myofiber function were not due to changes in protein content, as total muscle protein and myofibrillar protein concentration were unchanged (P > 0.05) with training. Training reduced (P < 0.05) the proportion of MHC IIx isoform, independent of age, whereas no other changes in MHC composition were observed. These data suggest relative improvements in muscle size and aerobic capacity are similar between YM and OM, while adaptations in myofiber contractile function showed a general improvement in OM. Training-related increases in MHC I and MHC IIa peak power reveal that skeletal muscle of OM is responsive to aerobic exercise training and further support the use of aerobic exercise for improving cardiovascular and skeletal muscle health in older individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Muscle Proteins
  • Myosin Heavy Chains