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Thomas D. O’Brien, Neil D. Reeves, Vasilios Baltzopoulos, David A. Jones and Constantinos N. Maganaris

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Thomas M. Maden-Wilkinson, Jamie S. McPhee, David A. Jones and Hans Degens

To investigate reasons for the age-related reduction in physical function, we determined the relationships between muscle size, strength, and power with 6-min walk distance (6MWD) and timed up-and-go performance in 49 young (23 ± 3.1 years) and 66 healthy, mobile older adults (72 ± 5 years). While muscle mass, determined by DXA and MRI, did not correlate with performance in the older adults, power per body mass, determined from a countermovement jump, did correlate. The 40% lower jumping power observed in older adults (p < .05) was due to a lower take-off velocity, which explained 34% and 42% of the variance in 6MWD in older women and men, respectively (p < .01). The lower velocity was partly attributable to the higher body mass to maximal force ratio, but most was due to a lower intrinsic muscle speed. While changes in muscle function explain part of the age-related reduction in functional performance, ~60% of the deficit remains to be explained.