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Physiological adaptations to resistance exercise as a function of age

Phillips, Bethan E.; Williams, John P.; Greenhaff, Paul L.; Smith, Kenneth; Atherton, Philip J.


Professor of Translational Physiology

Clinical Associate Professor

Professor of Metabolic Mass Spectrometry

Professor of Clinical, metabolic & Molecular Physiology



The impact of resistance exercise training (RE-T) across the life span is poorly defined.


To resolve this, we recruited three distinct age cohorts of young (18–28 years; n = 11), middle-aged (45–55 years; n = 20), and older (nonsarcopenic; 65–75 years; n = 17) individuals to a cross-sectional intervention study. All subjects participated in 20 weeks of fully supervised whole-body progressive RE-T, undergoing assessment of body composition, muscle and vascular function, and metabolic health biomarkers before and after RE-T. Individuals also received stable isotope tracer infusions to ascertain muscle protein synthesis (MPS).


There was an age-related increase in adiposity, but only young and middle-age groups demonstrated reductions following RE-T. Increases in blood pressure with age were attenuated by RE-T in middle-aged, but not older, individuals, while age-related increases in leg vascular conductance were unaffected by RE-T. The index of insulin sensitivity was reduced by RE-T in older age. Despite being matched at baseline, only younger individuals increased muscle mass in response to RE-T, and there existed a negative correlation between age and muscle growth; in contrast, increases in mechanical quality were preserved across ages. Acute increases in MPS (upon feeding plus acute RE-T) were enhanced only in younger individuals, perhaps explaining greater hypertrophy.


Our data indicate that RE-T offsets some, but not all, negative characteristics of ageing — some of which are apparent in midlife.


Phillips, B. E., Williams, J. P., Greenhaff, P. L., Smith, K., & Atherton, P. J. (2017). Physiological adaptations to resistance exercise as a function of age. JCI insight, 2(17), Article e95581.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 3, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 7, 2017
Publication Date Sep 7, 2017
Deposit Date Sep 15, 2017
Publicly Available Date Sep 15, 2017
Journal JCI Insight
Electronic ISSN 2379-3708
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 17
Article Number e95581
Public URL
Publisher URL


BBSRC2 Age Paper.pdf (1.5 Mb)

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