A reduced activity model: a relevant tool for the study of ageing muscle

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Skeletal muscle mass is in a constant state of turnover, and atrophy is the result of a shift in the balance of muscle protein synthesis and breakdown resulting in net muscle protein loss. Total disuse of skeletal muscle quickly leads to muscle atrophy and loss of strength, and this has been repeatedly demonstrated in studies employing bed rest and lower limb immobilisation methodologies in young healthy participants. Fewer studies have focused on older participants (>65 years of age), but those that have provide evidence that advancing age brings increased vulnerability to rapid and marked loss of muscle size and strength during period of total muscle unloading. Increased systemic inflammation and reduced protein synthetic responses to protein feeding and muscle contraction might influence the severity of muscle protein loss during periods of total unloading compared with younger individuals. Less extreme reductions in muscle loading (e.g., 2 weeks of reducing daily ambulation to <1500 steps/day) have also been shown to result in decreases in muscle mass. This step-reduction model may be more relevant than total bed rest or limb immobilisation for examining real-world scenarios that present a physiological challenge to the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass in older individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-447
Issue number3
Early online date27 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Ageing
  • Atrophy
  • Inactivity
  • Muscle
  • Step-reduction
  • Strength


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