Effects of age and regular exercise on muscle strength and endurance

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Summary

Twenty male and 20 female non-professional tennis players were classified into two different age groups (n=10 per group): young active men (30.4±3.3 years), young active women (27.5±4.3 years), elderly active men (64.4±3.7 years), and elderly active women (65.3±4.5 years). These individuals were matched (n = 10 per group) according to sex, age, height and mass to sedentary individuals of the same socio-economical background: young sedentary men (29.2±3.4 years), young sedentary women (25.6±4.4 years), elderly sedentary men (65.2 ± 3.2 years) and elderly sedentary women (65.6±4.4 years). An isokinetic dynamometer was used to measure the strength of the knee extensors and flexors (two separate occasions) and the endurance of the extensors. Vastus lateralis electromyogram (EMG) was measured concomitantly. Significant sex, age and exercise effects (P<0.001) were observed for peak torque of both muscle groups. The effect of age on extensor strength was more pronounced at high speeds where men were also able to generate larger relative torques than women.

No age or sex effects were noted for muscle endurance. However, muscles of active individuals demonstrated a greater resistance to fatigue than those of sedentary individuals. In conclusion, men were found to be stronger than women, age was associated with a decrease in muscle strength, but not of muscle endurance, and tennis players were stronger and had muscles that were more resistant to fatigue than their sedentary pairs in both age groups. Although the results of this study cannot be generalized to other types of sports activities, they do give credence to the health benefits of moderate exercise in the maintenance of muscle function with age.