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The mobility limitation in healthy older people is due to weakness and not slower muscle contractile properties.

Degens, Hans and Attias, Julia and Evans, Daniel and Wilkins, Frederick and Hodson-Tole, Emma (2021) The mobility limitation in healthy older people is due to weakness and not slower muscle contractile properties. PLoS One, 16 (6). e0253531-e0253531. ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

The maximal power generating capacity of a muscle declines with age and has a negative impact on the performance of daily life activities. As muscle power is the product of force and velocity, we recruited 20 young (10 men, 10 women: 20-31 years) and 20 older (10 men, 10 women: 65-86 years) people to investigate which of these components contributes to the lower power and performance in old age. After determination of the maximal isometric knee extension torque (MVC), they performed a countermovement jump (CMJ) in 1) the normal situation (normal), 2) with an extra load of 15% body weight (loaded) and 3) 15% lower body weight (unloaded with a pulley system), and a timed up-and-go test (TUG) in the normal or loaded condition. The TUG and CMJ performance was lower in old than young participants (p<0.001). Below a critical CMJ peak power of ~23.7 W·kg-1 TUG showed a progressive decrease. The CMJ take-off velocity (Voff) in the normal condition was lower in old than young participants (p<0.001). However, the Voff vs. body weight/MVC relationship of the normal, loaded and unloaded data combined was similar in the old and young participants and fitted the Hill equation (R2 = 0.396). This indicates that 1) only when peak power drops below a critical threshold TUG becomes impaired and 2) there was no evidence for intrinsic slowing of the muscle contractile properties in older people, but rather the older people were working on a slower part of the force-velocity relationship due to weaker muscles.

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