Effect of aging on human muscle architecture

M. V. Narici, C. N. Maganaris, N. D. Reeves, P. Capodaglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of aging on human gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle architecture was evaluated by comparing morphometric measurements on 14 young (aged 27-42 yr) and on 16 older (aged 70-81 yr) physically active men, matched for height, body mass, and physical activity. GM muscle anatomic cross-sectional area (ACSA) and volume (Vol) were measured by computerized tomography, and GM fascicle length (Lf) and pennation angle (θ) were assessed by ultrasonography. GM physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) was calculated as the ratio of Vol/Lf. In the elderly, ACSA and Vol were, respectively, 19.1% (P <0.005) and 25.4% (P <0.001) smaller than in the young adults. Also, Lf and θ were found to be smaller in the elderly group by 10.2% (P <0.01) and 13.2% (P <0.01), respectively. When the data for the young and elderly adults were pooled together, θ significantly correlated with ACSA (P <0.05). Because of the reduced Vol and Lf in the elderly group, the resulting PCSA was found to be 15.2% (P <0.05) smaller. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that aging significantly affects human skeletal muscle architecture. These structural alterations are expected to have implications for muscle function in old age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2229-2234
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003


  • Muscle fiber
  • Muscle strength
  • Sarcopenia
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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