Superior aerobic capacity and indices of skeletal muscle morphology in chronically trained master endurance athletes compared with untrained older adults

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • James McKendry
  • Sophie Joanisse
  • Shanat Baig
  • Boyang Liu
  • Gianni Parise

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
  • MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, UK


The study aim was to comprehensively assess physiological function and muscle morphology in chronically-trained older individuals against untrained young and older individuals. In a cross-sectional design 15 young untrained controls (YC) (20±2.7 y, 78.9±13.3kg), 12 untrained older controls (OC) (69.8±4.1 y, 77.5±14.2kg) and 14 endurance-trained master athletes (MA) (67.1±4.1 y, 68.7±6.5kg) underwent assessments of body composition, aerobic capacity, strength, muscle architecture and fibre-type morphology. Skeletal muscle index was lower and body fat greater in OC vs. MA. Estimated VO2max (ml·kg-1·min-1) was similar between MA and YC, but lower in OC. Isometric leg strength normalized to fat-free mass was similar between groups, whereas normalized isometric arm strength was greater in YC than MA. Myosin heavy chain (MHC) I fibre area was greater in MA than OC, whilst MHC II fibre area was greater in YC than OC. MHC II fibre myonuclear domain size was greater in YC than OC and MA, whereas MA had greater MHC I and MHC II fibre capilliarisation than OC and YC. Satellite cell content was similar between groups. Chronic endurance training enhances indices of muscle morphology and improves body composition and aerobic capacity in older age, with potentially important implications for healthspan extension.

Bibliographic note

© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1079–1088
Number of pages10
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences
Issue number6
Early online date1 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Sarcopenia, Exercise, Muscle, Human ageing