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Age-Related Declines in Lower Limb Muscle Function are Similar in Power and Endurance Athletes of Both Sexes: A Longitudinal Study of Master Athletes

Ireland, A and Mittag, U and Degens, H and Felsenberg, D and Heinonen, A and Koltai, E and Korhonen, MT and McPhee, JS and Mekjavic, I and Pisot, R and Rawer, R and Radak, Z and Simunic, B and Suominen, H and Rittweger, J (2021) Age-Related Declines in Lower Limb Muscle Function are Similar in Power and Endurance Athletes of Both Sexes: A Longitudinal Study of Master Athletes. Calcified Tissue International. ISSN 0171-967X

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Abstract

The age-related decline in muscle function, particularly muscle power, is associated with increased risk of important clinical outcomes. Physical activity is an important determinant of muscle function, and different types of physical activity e.g. power-based versus endurance-based exercise appear to have differential effects on muscle power. Cross-sectional studies suggest that participation in power-based exercise is associated with greater muscle power across adulthood but this has not been investigated longitudinally. We recruited eighty-nine male and female power and endurance master athletes (sprint and distance runners respectively, baseline age 35–90y). Using jumping mechanography, we measured lower limb muscle function during a vertical jump including at least two testing sessions longitudinally over 4.5 ± 2.4y. We examined effects of time, discipline (power/endurance) and sex in addition to two- and three-way interactions using linear mixed-effects models. Peak relative power, relative force and jump height, but not Esslingen Fitness Index (indicating peak power relative to sex and age-matched reference data) declined with time. Peak power, force, height and EFI were greater in power than endurance athletes. There were no sex, discipline or sex*discipline interactions with time for any variable, suggesting that changes were similar over time for athletes of both sexes and disciplines. Advantages in lower limb muscle function in power athletes were maintained with time, in line with previous cross-sectional studies. These results suggest that improvements in lower limb function in less active older individuals following power-based training persist with continued adherence, although this requires further investigation in interventional studies.

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