Influence of between-limb asymmetry in muscle mass, strength, and power on functional capacity in healthy older adults

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Kenneth H. Mertz
  • Søren Reitelseder
  • Mikkel Jensen
  • Jonas Lindberg
  • Morten Hjulmand
  • Aide Schucany
  • Søren Binder Andersen
  • Rasmus L. Bechshoeft
  • Markus D. Jakobsen
  • Theresa Bieler
  • Nina Beyer
  • Jakob Lindberg Nielsen
  • Per Aagaard

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Bispebjerg Hospital
  • University of Copenhagen
  • National Research Centre for the Working Environment
  • University of Southern Denmark


PURPOSE: Numerous daily tasks such as walking and rising from a chair involve bilateral lower limb movements. During such tasks, lower extremity function (LEF) may be compromised among older adults. LEF may be further impaired due to high degrees of between-limb asymmetry. The present study investigated the prevalence of between-limb asymmetry in muscle mass, strength, and power in a cohort of healthy older adults and examined the influence of between-limb asymmetry on LEF.

METHODS: Two hundred and eight healthy older adults (mean age 70.2 ± 3.9 years) were tested for LEF (400 m walking and 30-seconds chair stand). Furthermore, maximal isometric and dynamic knee extensor strength, leg extensor power, and lower limb lean tissue mass (LTM) were obtained unilaterally.

RESULTS: Mean between-limb asymmetry in maximal muscle strength and power ranged between 10% and 13%, whereas LTM asymmetry was 3 ± 2.3%. Asymmetry in dynamic knee extensor strength was larger for women compared with men (15.0 ± 11.8% vs 11.1 ± 9.5%; P = .005) Leg strength and power were positively correlated with LEF (r2 = .43-.46, P < .001). The weakest leg was not a stronger predictor of LEF than the strongest leg. Between-limb asymmetry in LTM and isometric strength was negatively associated with LEF (LTM; r2 = .12, P = .005, isometric peak torque; r2 = 0.40, P = .03.) but dynamic strength and power were not.

CONCLUSION: The present study supports the notion that in order to improve or maintain LEF, healthy older adults should participate in training interventions that increase muscle strength and power, whereas the effects of reducing between-limb asymmetry in these parameters might be of less importance.

Bibliographic note

© 2019 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1901-1908
Number of pages8
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number12
Early online date16 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • asymmetry, lower extremity function, mobility, muscle power, muscle strength