European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology vol:89 pages:427-434
Reduced muscle performance, related to the loss of muscle mass and strength, is a common and natural part of ageing. Nevertheless, it is generally believed that regular participation in activities of moderate intensity may slow down these age-related changes. This study investigated the relationship between the habitual level of physical activity (PA), assessed by the modified Baecke Questionnaire, and the mechanical and fatigue characteristics of the right elbow flexor muscles, m. biceps brachii and m. brachioradialis, in men over the age of 55 years. Muscle fatigue was quantified both by measuring the maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) torque before and after a sustained isometric contraction at 25% MVC until exhaustion, and also by the temporal changes observed in the surface electromyographic (EMG) signal recorded during the fatigue task. Results showed a decreased MVC torque at the end of the fatiguing contraction. After 20 min of recovery, the MVC force was still significantly lower than the pre-fatigue value, except for the most active subjects. Typical myoelectrical indications of fatigue were also observed: a shift in the frequency spectrum of the signal towards lower frequencies accompanied by an increase in the EMG amplitude. We concluded from this study that the level of PA was related to the absolute isometric MVC values and the measurement of neuromuscular efficiency after 20 min of recovery, but did not influence the indications of muscle fatigue during an isometric fatigue task.