Skeletal muscle characteristics among distance runners: a 20-yr follow-up study

S. W. Trappe, D. L. Costill, W. J. Fink, D. R. Pearson


The purpose of this investigation was to examine the histochemical and enzymatic characteristics of skeletal muscle after 20 yr of distance running training. Twenty-eight men were first studied between 1966 and 1974 when they were all highly trained distance runners. On the basis of their training regimens in the interim between testing, subjects were described as highly trained (HI; n = 11), fitness trained (FIT; n = 10), or untrained (UT; n = 7). Gastrocnemius muscle biopsy samples revealed a mean increase (P < 0.05) in the proportion of type I fibers of the FIT and UT groups, whereas the HI group, which was initially characterized by a high percentage (> 70%) of type I fibers, was unchanged. Although the mean fiber type change of the HI group was similar between evaluations, 6 of the 11 subjects did elicit an increase in the percentage of type I fibers. A subgroup of elite distance runners who had continued to train for competition experienced an approximately 25% reduction (P > 0.05) in muscle succinate dehydrogenase activity and decreases (P > 0.05) in types I and II muscle fiber areas. On the average, in 1993 the HI group had higher (P < 0.05) succinate dehydrogenase and citrate synthase activities than the FIT and UT groups, whereas phosphorylase activity did not differ among the three groups. These data suggest that the middle-aged men in this study had a significantly greater proportion of type I muscle fibers than when they were 20 yr younger.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)