Lifelong physical exercise delays age-associated skeletal muscle decline

S. Zampieri, L. Pietrangelo, S. Loefler, H. Fruhmann, M. Vogelauer, S. Burggraf, A. Pond, M. Grim-Stieger, J. Cvecka, M. Sedliak, V. Tirpáková, W. Mayr, N. Sarabon, K. Rossini, L. Barberi, M. De Rossi, V. Romanello, S. Boncompagni, A. Musarò, M. SandriF. Protasi, U. Carraro, H. Kern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aging is usually accompanied by a significant reduction in muscle mass and force. To determine the relative contribution of inactivity and aging per se to this decay, we compared muscle function and structure in (a) male participants belonging to a group of well-trained seniors (average of 70 years) who exercised regularly in their previous 30 years and (b) age-matched healthy sedentary seniors with (c) active young men (average of 27 years). The results collected show that relative to their sedentary cohorts, muscle from senior sportsmen have: (a) greater maximal isometric force and function, (b) better preserved fiber morphology and ultrastructure of intracellular organelles involved in Ca2+ handling and ATP production, (c) preserved muscle fibers size resulting from fiber rescue by reinnervation, and (d) lowered expression of genes related to autophagy and reactive oxygen species detoxification. All together, our results indicate that: (a) skeletal muscle of senior sportsmen is actually more similar to that of adults than to that of age-matched sedentaries and (b) signaling pathways controlling muscle mass and metabolism are differently modulated in senior sportsmen to guarantee maintenance of skeletal muscle structure, function, bioenergetic characteristics, and phenotype. Thus, regular physical activity is a good strategy to attenuate age-related general decay of muscle structure and function ( NCT01679977).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-173
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Calcium release unit
  • Force
  • Human skeletal muscle
  • Physical exercise
  • Signaling pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Medicine(all)


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