Endurance exercise increases the use of endogenous fuels to provide energy for working muscles. Elderly subjects oxidize more glucose and less fat during moderate intensity exercise. This shift in substrate use is presumably caused by age-related changes in skeletal muscle, including decreased skeletal muscle respiratory capacity, because adipose tissue lipolysis and plasma fatty acid availability are not rate limiting. Endurance training in elderly subjects increases muscle respiratory capacity, decreases glucose production and oxidation, and increases fat oxidation thereby correcting or compensating for the alterations in substrate oxidation associated with aging.
The authors are with the Center for Human Nutrition and the Department of Internal Medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110.