Front. Physiol., 18 May 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00142

Effects of physical activity and inactivity on muscle fatigue

  • Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

The aim of this review was to examine the mechanisms by which physical activity and inactivity modify muscle fatigue. It is well known that acute or chronic increases in physical activity result in structural, metabolic, hormonal, neural, and molecular adaptations that increase the level of force or power that can be sustained by a muscle. These adaptations depend on the type, intensity, and volume of the exercise stimulus, but recent studies have highlighted the role of high intensity, short-duration exercise as a time-efficient method to achieve both anaerobic and aerobic/endurance type adaptations. The factors that determine the fatigue profile of a muscle during intense exercise include muscle fiber composition, neuromuscular characteristics, high energy metabolite stores, buffering capacity, ionic regulation, capillarization, and mitochondrial density. Muscle fiber-type transformation during exercise training is usually toward the intermediate type IIA at the expense of both type I and IIx myosin heavy-chain isoforms. High-intensity training results in increases of both glycolytic and oxidative enzymes, muscle capillarization, improved phosphocreatine resynthesis and regulation of K+, H+, and lactate ions. Decreases of the habitual activity level due to injury or sedentary lifestyle result in partial or even compete reversal of the adaptations due to previous training, manifested by reductions in fiber cross-sectional area, decreased oxidative capacity, and capillarization. Complete immobilization due to injury results in markedly decreased force output and fatigue resistance. Muscle unloading reduces electromyographic activity and causes muscle atrophy and significant decreases in capillarization and oxidative enzymes activity. The last part of the review discusses the beneficial effects of intermittent high-intensity exercise training in patients with different health conditions to demonstrate the powerful effect of exercise on health and well being.

Keywords: high-intensity exercise, training, repeated sprints, aerobic training

Citation: Bogdanis GC (2012) Effects of physical activity and inactivity on muscle fatigue. Front. Physio. 3:142. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00142

Received: 20 January 2012; Accepted: 27 April 2012;
Published online: 18 May 2012.

Edited by:

Christina Karatzaferi, University of Thessaly, Greece

Reviewed by:

Bruno Bastide, University of Lille Nord de France, University of Lille 1, France
Norbert Maassen, University Hannover/Medical School Hannover, Germany

Copyright: © 2012 Bogdanis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Gregory C. Bogdanis, Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Athens, 41 Ethnikis Antistasis Street, Dafne, 172 37 Athens, Greece. e-mail:

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