• fatigue;
  • endurance;
  • aging;
  • treadmill;
  • swimming;
  • mice;
  • skeletal muscle


In order to evaluate the role played by muscular and extramuscular factors in the development of fatigue in old age, the time course of fatigue in isolated skeletal muscles and spontaneous motor activity and endurance of whole animals were monitored using young (3–6 months) and old (34–36 months) CF57BL/6J mice. The isolated extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and soleus muscles from old mice had smaller (P < 0.05) mass and developed lower (P < 0.02) maximal tetanic tension at 100-Hz stimulation than the muscles of young mice. During stimulation at 30 Hz every 2.5 s, a 50% decline in original tetanic tension occurred by 109 s in young EDL and 129 s in old EDL, but by 482 s in young soleus and 1134 s (projected) in old soleus, indicating more (P < 0.05) resistance to fatigue in old than young soleus. However, the old mice showed significantly fewer (P < 0.002) spontaneous ambulatory movements than the young mice. On a treadmill with a belt speed of 10 m/min at an inclination of 0°, the old mice could only run for 22 min compared to 39 min ran by young mice (P < 0.02). They took more rest periods (P < 0.02) than the young mice. In a quantitative swimming monitor, the old mice swam for a shorter (P < 0.05) time than young mice (20.4 min compared to 28.6 min). Integrated swimming activity at 20 min was smaller (P < 0.05) in old mice than in young mice (413 g/s compared to 628 g/s). Hence increased fatigue in old age is not caused by impairment of processes within the muscles, but by impairment of central or extramuscular processes. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Muscle Nerve 21: 1729–1739, 1998