Lifelong physical exercise delays age-associated skeletal muscle decline

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Feb;70(2):163-73. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu006. Epub 2014 Feb 18.


Aging is usually accompanied by a significant reduction in muscle mass and force. To determine the relative contribution of inactivity and aging per se to this decay, we compared muscle function and structure in (a) male participants belonging to a group of well-trained seniors (average of 70 years) who exercised regularly in their previous 30 years and (b) age-matched healthy sedentary seniors with (c) active young men (average of 27 years). The results collected show that relative to their sedentary cohorts, muscle from senior sportsmen have: (a) greater maximal isometric force and function, (b) better preserved fiber morphology and ultrastructure of intracellular organelles involved in Ca(2+) handling and ATP production, (c) preserved muscle fibers size resulting from fiber rescue by reinnervation, and (d) lowered expression of genes related to autophagy and reactive oxygen species detoxification. All together, our results indicate that: (a) skeletal muscle of senior sportsmen is actually more similar to that of adults than to that of age-matched sedentaries and (b) signaling pathways controlling muscle mass and metabolism are differently modulated in senior sportsmen to guarantee maintenance of skeletal muscle structure, function, bioenergetic characteristics, and phenotype. Thus, regular physical activity is a good strategy to attenuate age-related general decay of muscle structure and function ( NCT01679977).

Keywords: Calcium release unit; Force; Human skeletal muscle; Physical exercise; Signaling pathways..

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / genetics
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / ultrastructure*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / physiology
  • YY1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • BNIP3 protein, human
  • MIRN206 microRNA, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NFE2L2 protein, human
  • P62 protein, human
  • PPARGC1A protein, human
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • SREBF1 protein, human
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • Transcription Factors
  • YY1 Transcription Factor
  • YY1 protein, human
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Calcium

Associated data