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Lower tendon stiffness in very old compared with old individuals is unaffected by short-term resistance training of skeletal muscle

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Aging negatively affects collagen-rich tissue, like tendons, but in vivo tendon mechanical properties and the influence of physical activity after the 8th decade of life remain to be determined. This study aimed to compare in vivo patellar tendon mechanical properties in moderately old (old) and very old adults and the effect of short-term resistance training. Twenty old (9 women, 11 men, >65 yr) and 30 very old (11 women, 19 men, >83 yr) adults were randomly allocated to heavy resistance training (HRT) or no training (CON) and underwent testing of in vivo patellar tendon (PT) mechanical properties and PT dimensions before and after a 3-mo intervention. Previous measurements of muscle properties, blood parameters, and physical activity level were included in the analysis. Data from 9 old HRT, 10 old CON, 14 very old CON, and 12 old HRT adults were analyzed. In addition to lower quadriceps muscle strength and cross-sectional area (CSA), we found lower PT stiffness and Young's modulus ( P < 0.001) and a trend toward the lower mid-portion PT-CSA ( P = 0.09) in very old compared with old subjects. Daily step count was also lower in very old subjects ( P < 0.001). Resistance training improved muscle strength and cross-sectional area equally in old and very old subjects ( P < 0.05) but did not affect PT mechanical properties or dimension. We conclude that PT material properties are reduced in very old age, and this may likely be explained by reduced physical activity. Three months of resistance training however, could not alter PT mechanical properties in very old individuals. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This research is the first to quantify in vivo tendon mechanical properties in a group of very old adults in their eighties. Patellar tendon stiffness was lower in very old (87 yr on average) compared with moderately old (68 yr on average) individuals. Reduced physical activity with aging may explain some of the loss in tendon stiffness, but regular heavy resistance training for 3 mo was not sufficient to change tendon mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Volume125
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
ISSN0161-7567
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

ID: 56199209