Long-term Aerobic Exercise Is Associated With Greater Muscle Strength Throughout the Life Span
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Aging is associated with a progressive decline in muscle strength, muscle mass, and aerobic capacity, which reduces mobility and impairs quality of life in elderly adults. Exercise is commonly employed to improve muscle function in individuals of all ages; however, chronic aerobic exercise is believed to largely impact cardiovascular function and oxidative metabolism, with minimal effects on muscle mass and strength. To study the effects of long-term aerobic exercise on muscle strength, we recruited 74 sedentary (SED) or highly aerobically active (ACT) men and women from within three distinct age groups (young: 20-39 years, middle: 40-64 years, and older: 65-86 years) and tested their aerobic capacity, isometric grip and knee extensor strength, and dynamic 1 repetition maximum knee extension. As expected, ACT subjects had greater maximal oxygen uptake and peak aerobic power output compared with SED subjects (p < .05). Grip strength relative to body weight declined with age (p < .05) and was greater in ACT compared with SED subjects in both hands (p < .05). Similarly, relative maximal isometric knee extension torque declined with age (p < .05) and was higher in ACT versus SED individuals in both legs (p < .05). Absolute and relative 1 repetition maximum knee extension declined with age (p < .05) and were greater in ACT versus SED groups (p < .05). Knee extensor strength was associated with a greater amount of leg lean mass in the ACT subjects (p < .05). In summary, long-term aerobic exercise appears to attenuate age-related reductions in muscle strength in addition to its cardiorespiratory and metabolic benefits.
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