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Single- Versus Double-Leg Cycling: Small Muscle Mass Exercise Improves Exercise Capacity to a Greater Extent in Older Compared With Younger Population

Toni Haddad, Angela L. Spence, Jeremiah J. Peiffer, Gregory M. Blain, Jeanick Brisswalter, and Chris R. Abbiss

Manipulating the amount of muscle mass engaged during exercise can noninvasively inform the contribution of central cardiovascular and peripheral vascular-oxidative functions to endurance performance. To better understand the factors contributing to exercise limitation in older and younger individuals, exercise performance was assessed during single-leg and double-leg cycling. 16 older (67 ± 5 years) and 14 younger (35 ± 5 years) individuals performed a maximal exercise using single-leg and double-leg cycling. The ratio of single-leg to double-leg cycling power (RatioPower SL/DL) was compared between age groups. The association between fitness (peak oxygen consumption, peak power output, and physical activity levels) and RatioPower SL/DL was explored. The RatioPower SL/DL was greater in older compared with younger individuals (1.14 ± 0.11 vs. 1.06 ± 0.08, p = .041). The RatioPower SL/DL was correlated with peak oxygen consumption (r = .886, p < .001), peak power output relative to body mass (r = .854, p < .001), and levels of physical activity (r = .728, p = .003) in the younger but not older subgroup. Reducing the amount of muscle mass engaged during exercise improved exercise capacity to a greater extent in older versus younger population and may reflect a greater reduction in central cardiovascular function compared with peripheral vascular-oxidative function with aging.