Muscle atrophy and weakness with aging: contraction-induced injury as an underlying mechanism

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1995 Nov;50 Spec No:124-9. doi: 10.1093/gerona/50a.special_issue.124.


In old compared with young animals, muscle mass is decreased by 30% to 40%, and maximum force and power are decreased to an even greater extent. The age-related declines in muscle mass and muscle function are similar to those that occur with decreased physical activity. Despite the similarities, we conclude that the losses in muscle mass, force, and power are not due solely to old animals being less active, but rather accrue from intrinsic age-related changes in muscles and in muscle fibers that appear to be immutable and irreversible. The intrinsic changes are associated with denervation of fast fatigable fibers and motor units and motor unit remodeling, which may be initiated by contraction-induced injury. The mechanisms remain unresolved for the weakness, the fatigability, the high susceptibility to contraction-induced injury, and the impaired recovery from injury demonstrated by the skeletal muscles of old animals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle Weakness / physiopathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Degeneration