Changes in muscle thickness of gastrocnemius and soleus associated with age and sex

Department of Human Movement and Health, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa 920-8640, Japan.
Aging clinical and experimental research (Impact Factor: 1.22). 11/2009; 22(1):24-30. DOI: 10.3275/6590
Source: PubMed


Gastrocnemius and soleus in the triceps surae have functional and histological differences.We therefore investigated age-related changes in muscle thickness of these two muscles, as well as the difference in these changes between men and women.
Participants comprised 847 healthy adults aged 20 to 79 years. A B-mode ultrasound scanner, with participants sitting on a chair, was used to measure muscle thickness from the midpoint of the gastrocnemius medialis muscle at the level of maximum girth (target point). The ratio of muscle thickness to height was calculated. The inter-rater and intra-rater reliability of measuring muscle thickness with the ultrasound scanner and the validity of the target point were demonstrated before the examination.
Gastrocnemius was significantly thinner in women aged 60 or older and in men aged 50 or older, compared with their counterparts in their 20s. For soleus, no significant differences in thickness were found among the age groups in either sex. Decline in muscle thickness from age 40-79 was greater for gastrocnemius than for soleus.
These results confirm that gastrocnemius starts to deteriorate earlier and atrophies at a faster pace than soleus. A significant sex difference was found only in the onset age of gastrocnemius deterioration, which was earlier in men than in women.

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    • "In young adults, the gastrocnemeii contribute relatively less plantar flexion torque than the soleus, even with the knee extended (~ 30%) (Fukunaga et al., 1992). Because the function of the gastrocnemeii is compromised to a greater extent than the soleus with adult aging (Fujiwara et al., 2010; Morse et al., 2005), knee flexion did not have a greater effect on the voluntary isometric torque–length relationship of the whole triceps surae in the older men than the young. "
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    ABSTRACT: Human adult aging is associated with a loss of strength, contractile velocity and hence, power. The principal plantar flexors, consisting of the bi-articular gastrocnemeii and the mono-articular soleus, appear to be affected differently by the aging process. However, the age-related effect of knee joint angle on the torque-angular velocity relationship and power production of this functionally important muscle group is unknown. The purpose was to determine whether flexing the knee, thereby reducing the gastrocnemius contribution to plantar flexion, would exacerbate the age-related decrements in plantar flexion power, or shift the torque-angular velocity relationship differently in older compared with young men. Neuromuscular properties were recorded from 10 young (~25 y) and 10 old (~78 y) men with the knee extended (170º) and flexed (90º), in a randomized order. Participants performed maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVCs), followed by maximal velocity-dependent shortening contractions at pre-set loads, ranging from 15 to 75% MVC. The young men were ~20-25% stronger, ~12% faster and ~30% more powerful than the old for both knee angles (P<0.05). In both age groups, isometric MVC torque was ~17% greater in the extended than flexed knee position, with no differences in voluntary activation (>95%). The young men produced 7-12% faster angular velocities in the extended knee position for loads ≤30% MVC, but no differences at higher loads; whereas there were no detectable differences in angular velocity between knee positions in the old across all relative loads. For both knee angles, young men produced peak power at 43.3±9.0% MVC, whereas the old men produced peak power at 54.8±7.9% MVC. These data indicate the young, who have faster contracting muscles compared with the old, can rely more on velocity than torque for generating optimal power.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Experimental gerontology
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    • "In this study, the measurement of the thickness of 10 muscles of the lower limbs showed the smallest degree of atrophy of the soleus muscle without any significant difference in the soleus muscle thickness between the young and elderly. As for age-related changes in the muscle mass of triceps surae muscle, Fujiwara et al. (2010) found that the gastrocnemius was significantly thinner in elderly women than young women, while the thickness of the soleus muscle did not differ among these groups. Morse et al. (2005) also reported that physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) values measured by MRI for the lateral and medial heads of gastrocnemius muscles were 19% and 14.5% smaller in elderly males (n = 12) than young males (n = 15), whereas a non-significant reduction of 4.4% was observed in the soleus PCSA. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the relationship between age-related declines in muscle thickness of the lower extremities and daily physical activity in elderly women. The subjects comprised 20 young women and 17 elderly women residing in a nursing home. Lower limb muscle thickness was measured by B-mode ultrasound with the following 10 muscles; gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, psoas major, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius and soleus. Daily physical activity was evaluated using life-space assessment (LSA) which assessed the life-space level, degree of independence, and frequency of attainment. Muscle thickness in the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, psoas major, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, biceps femoris and gastrocnemius, but not soleus, was significantly greater in the young group than the elderly group. The greatest rates of age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass in the lower limbs showed in the psoas major, while the smallest loss showed in soleus muscle. Only the gluteus medius was significantly associated with the LSA score (r = 0.528, p < 0.05) in elderly women. These results suggest that the reduction in skeletal mass with age is smaller in soleus muscle, and that the age-related decline in gluteus medius muscle is influenced by daily physical activity.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Archives of gerontology and geriatrics
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    ABSTRACT: It is unclear during human aging whether healthy older adults (>70 yr old) experience greater, lesser, or the same fatigability compared with younger adults. The reported disparate findings may be related to the task-dependent nature of fatigue and the limited number of studies exploring nonisometric contractile function and aging. The purpose here was to determine the effects of fast shortening contractions on the fatigability of the triceps surae in 10 young (~24 yr old) and 10 old (~78 yr old) men using isometric and dynamic measures. Participants performed 50 maximal velocity-dependent plantar flexions at a constant load of 20% maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVC). Isometric twitch properties and MVCs were tested at baseline and during and following the fatigue task. Voluntary activation was similar between the old and young (~98%) and was unaltered with fatigue. The old had 26% lower (P < 0.01) isometric MVC torque and 18% slower (P < 0.01) maximal shortening velocity than the young. Hence, peak power was 38% lower in the old (P < 0.01). At task termination, MVC torque was maintained in the old (P = 0.15) but decreased by 21% in the young (P < 0.01). Twitch half-relaxation time was lengthened in the old at task termination by 26% (P < 0.01) but unchanged in the young (P = 0.10). Peak power was reduced by 24% and 17% at task termination in the old and young, respectively (P < 0.01). Despite a better maintenance in isometric MVC torque production, the weaker and slower contracting triceps surae of the old was more fatigable than the young during fast dynamic efforts with an unconstrained velocity.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2010 · Journal of Applied Physiology
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