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PLoS One


Low muscle power, particularly at high velocities, has been linked to poor physical function in older adults. Any loss in muscle power following fatiguing exercise or daily activities could impact physical function and postural control until power has fully recovered. To test the overall hypothesis that a common task such as walking can result in prolonged power loss and decreased physical function and balance, 17 healthy older (66–81 years) women completed a 32-min walking test (32MWT) designed to induce neuromuscular fatigue, followed by 60min of recovery (60R). Fatigue and recovery of knee extensor muscle power (3 velocities) were quantified by dynamometry. Function was quantified by chair rise time and postural control by measures of center of pressure (COP) range (mm) and velocity (mm·s-1) during quiet stance. Power declined at all velocities by 8–13% 2min following the 32MWT (p≤0.02) and remained depressed by 8–26% at 60R (p≤0.04). Postural control decreased following the 32MWT, indicated by increased COP range in the anterior-posterior (AP, p<0.01) direction and a trend in the medial-lateral (ML) direction (p = 0.09), and returned to baseline by 60R (p≥0.10). COP velocity was unchanged immediately following the 32MWT, but at 60R was lower in ML (p = 0.03) and tended to be reduced in AP (p = 0.07). Changes in high-velocity power (270°·s-1) were associated with altered postural control (p = 0.02) and chair rise performance (p≤0.03). These results provide evidence of long-duration neuromuscular changes following fatigue in healthy older women that may place them at increased risk for functional deficits during everyday mobility tasks.







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