The world population is ageing rapidly. As society ages, the incidence of physical limitations is dramatically increasing, which reduces the quality of life and increases healthcare expenditures. In western society, ~30% of the population over 55 years is confronted with moderate or severe physical limitations. These physical limitations increase the risk of falls, institutionalization, co-morbidity, and premature death. An important cause of physical limitations is the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, also referred to as sarcopenia. Emerging evidence, however, clearly shows that the decline in skeletal muscle mass is not the sole contributor to the decline in physical performance. For instance, the loss of muscle strength is also a strong contributor to reduced physical performance in the elderly. In addition, there is ample data to suggest that motor coordination, excitation-contraction coupling, skeletal integrity, and other factors related to the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems are critically important for physical performance in the elderly. To better understand the loss of skeletal muscle performance with ageing, we aim to provide a broad overview on the underlying mechanisms associated with elderly skeletal muscle performance. We start with a system level discussion and continue with a discussion on the influence of lifestyle, biological, and psychosocial factors on elderly skeletal muscle performance. Developing a broad understanding of the many factors affecting elderly skeletal muscle performance has major implications for scientists, clinicians, and health professionals who are developing therapeutic interventions aiming to enhance muscle function and/or prevent mobility and physical limitations and, as such, support healthy ageing.
Keywords: Dynapenia; Mobility; Muscle quality; Physical performance; Sarcopenia.
© 2017 The Authors. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the Society on Sarcopenia, Cachexia and Wasting Disorders.