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Combined effects of body composition and ageing on joint torque, muscle activation and co-contraction in sedentary women

Tomlinson, DJ and Erskine, RM and Morse, CI and Winwood, K and Onambele-Pearson, GL (2014) Combined effects of body composition and ageing on joint torque, muscle activation and co-contraction in sedentary women. AGE, 36. ISSN 0161-9152

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Abstract

This study aimed to establish the interplay between body mass, adiposity, ageing and determinants of skeletal muscle strength. One hundred and two untrained healthy women categorised by age into young (Y) (mean ± SD, 26.7 ± 9.4 years) vs. old (O) (65.1 ± 7.2 years) were assessed for body fat, lean mass, plantar flexion and dorsiflexion maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVC) torque, muscle activation capacity and antagonist muscle co-contraction. MVC torque normalised to body mass in the obese group was 35 and 29 % lower (p < 0.05) in Y and 34 and 31 % lower (p < 0.05) in O, compared with underweight and normal weight individuals, respectively. Y with ≥40 % body fat had significantly lower activation than Y with <40 % body fat (88.3 vs. 94.4 %, p < 0.05), but O did not exhibit this effect. Co-contraction was affected by ageing (16.1 % in O vs. 13.8 % in Y, p < 0.05) but not body composition. There were significant associations between markers of body composition, age, strength and activation capacity, with the strongest correlation between muscle strength and total body mass (r2 = 0.508 in Y, p < 0.001, vs. r2 = 0.204 in O, p < 0.01). Furthermore, the age-related loss in plantar flexion (PF) MVC torque was exacerbated in obese compared to underweight, normal weight and overweight individuals (−0.96 vs. −0.54, −0.57 and −0.57 % per year, p < 0.05). The negative impact of adiposity on muscle performance is associated with not only muscular but also neural factors. Overall, the effects of ageing and obesity on this system are somewhat cumulative.

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