Low-load resistance exercise during inactivity is associated with greater fibre area and satellite cell expression in older skeletal muscle
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BACKGROUND: Age-related sarcopenia is accelerated by physical inactivity. Low-load resistance exercise (LLRE) counters inactivity-induced muscle atrophy in older adults, but changes in muscle fibre morphology are unstudied. We aimed to determine the impact of LLRE during short-term inactivity (step-reduction) on muscle fibre size and capillarity as well as satellite cell (SC) content in older skeletal muscle. METHODS: Fourteen older (~71 years) male adults underwent 14 days of step reduction (<1500 steps/day) while performing six sessions of LLRE (~30% maximal strength) with one leg (SR + EX) while the contralateral leg served as an untrained control (SR). Seven healthy ambulatory age-matched male adults (~69 years) served as a comparator group (COM). Muscle biopsies were taken from the vastus lateralis after 14 days, and immunohistochemical analysis was performed to determine muscle fibre cross-sectional area (CSA), myonuclear content, SC content (PAX7+ cells), and total (C:F) and fibre type-specific (C:Fi) capillary-to-fibre ratios. RESULTS: Type I and II fibre CSA was greater in SR + EX compared with SR. Whereas there were no differences across fibre types between SR + EX and CON, type II fibre CSA was significantly lower in SR compared with COM. Type II myonuclear domain was greater in SR + EX compared with COM and SR. Pax7+ cells associated with type I and II fibres were lower in SR compared with SR + EX. Type II PAX7+ cells were also lower in SR compared with COM with a similar trend for type I fibres. There were trends for a lower C:Fi in SR compared with SR + EX for both fibre types with no differences for each compared with COM. CONCLUSIONS: Minimal LLRE during a period of decreased physical activity is associated with greater muscle fibre CSA, SC content, and capillarization. These results support the use of LLRE as an effective countermeasure to inactivity-induced alterations in muscle morphology with age.