Impact of Aging on Endurance and Neuromuscular Physical Performance: The Role of Vascular Senescence

Goncalo V. Mendonca, Pedro Pezarat-Correia, João R. Vaz, Luís Silva, Kevin S Heffernan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The portion of society aged ≥60 years is the fastest growing population in the Western hemisphere. Aging is associated with numerous changes to systemic physiology that affect physical function and performance. We present a narrative review of the literature aimed at discussing the age-related changes in various metrics of physical performance (exercise economy, anaerobic threshold, peak oxygen uptake, muscle strength, and power). It also explores aging exercise physiology as it relates to global physical performance. Finally, this review examines the vascular contributions to aging exercise physiology. Numerous studies have shown that older adults exhibit substantial reductions in physical performance. The process of decline in endurance capacity is particularly insidious over the age of 60 years and varies considerably as a function of sex, task specificity, and individual training status. Starting at the age of 50 years, aging also implicates an impressive deterioration of neuromuscular function, affecting muscle strength and power. Muscle atrophy, together with minor deficits in the structure and function of the nervous system and/or impairments in intrinsic muscle quality, plays an important role in the development of neuromotor senescence. Large artery stiffness increases as a function of age, thus triggering subsequent changes in pulsatile hemodynamics and systemic endothelial dysfunction. For this reason, we propose that vascular senescence has a negative impact on cerebral, cardiac, and neuromuscular structure and function, detrimentally affecting physical performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-598
Number of pages16
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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