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Previous studies have shown that aging is associated with alterations in muscle architecture and tendon properties. However, the possible influence of different types of regular exercise loading on muscle architecture and tendon properties in older adults is poorly understood. To address this, triceps surae muscle-tendon properties were examined in older male endurance (OE, n=10, age=74.0±2.8) and sprint runners (OS, n=10, age=74.4±2.8) with an average of 42 years of regular training experience, and compared to age-matched (OC, n=33, age=74.8±3.6) and young untrained controls (YC, n=18, age=23.7±2.0). Compared to YC, Achilles tendon cross-sectional area (CSA) was 22% (p=0.022), 45 % (p=0.001) and 71% (p<0.001) larger in OC, OE and OS, respectively. Among older groups, OS had significantly larger tendon CSA compared to OC (p=0.033). No significant between-group differences were observed in Achilles tendon stiffness. In older groups, Young's modulus was 31-44% and maximal tendon stress 44-55% lower than in YC (p≤0.001). OE showed shorter soleus fascicle length than both OC (p<0.05) and YC (p<0.05). These data suggest that long-term running does not counteract the previously reported age-related increase in tendon CSA, but instead, may have an additive effect. The greatest Achilles tendon CSA was observed in sprinters followed by endurance runners and older controls, suggesting that adaptation to running exercise is loading intensity dependent. Achilles tendon stiffness was maintained in older groups even though all older groups displayed larger tendon CSA and lower tendon Young's modulus. Shorter soleus muscle fascicles in older endurance runners may be an adaptation to life-long endurance running.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)
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