Coactivation in sedentary and active older adults during maximal power and submaximal power tasks : activity-related differences
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As adults age, they lose the ability to produce maximal power and speed of movement. Success in daily living is often dependent upon power and speed. Thus these age-related decrements in performance can reduce physical independence and quality of life. An active lifestyle in older adulthood is associated with more successful aging. The purpose of this research program was to define the link between habitual activity and performance, specifically in regard to activities requiring power and speed. The hypothesis was that active older adults, compared to sedentary older adults, would be characterized by greater power production in maximal- and submaximal-effort tasks. Grouping older adults by activity level, coactivation was associated with activity level. Functional tasks are performed with a range of power requirements. Coactivation was used to distinguish groups in a maximal power task (Study 1) and submaximal power tasks (Study 2). In Study 1, the young adults demonstrated a greater maximal power than the older adults. While maximal power was not different between the older active and sedentary groups, the groups did differ on how they created maximal power. The active older adults produced a greater coactivation in the lower leg muscles compared to the older sedentary adults. In Study 2, the active older adults responded to different speeds during a submaximal power task with greater coactivation in the muscles of the lower leg at slow speeds compared with the sedentary older adults. Both older adults groups increased coactivation in the thigh muscles at high speeds. The sedentary older adults responded to speed with increased coactivation in the lower leg at fast speeds. The active older adults increased proximal thigh coactivation, EMG index, at the fastest speed compared with the sedentary older adults. Both older adult groups showed muscle activation adaptation to the change in task demands. The results of this dissertation increase our understanding about the link between physical activity and performance. Age-related differences in coactivation were observed during both maximal and submaximal tasks. Activity-related differences were observed suggesting the active older adults have a greater capability to adjust muscle activity to meet the challenges of community living.