European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 113–122 | Cite as

Relationship between physical activity and intramyocellular lipid content is different between young and older adults

  • Maya HiokiEmail author
  • Nana Kanehira
  • Teruhiko Koike
  • Akira Saito
  • Hideyuki Takahashi
  • Kiyoshi Shimaoka
  • Hisataka Sakakibara
  • Yoshiharu Oshida
  • Hiroshi Akima
Original Article



Intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) is influenced by physical exercise; however, whether the habitual level of physical activity affects resting IMCL content remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between physical activity levels and resting IMCL content in young and older adults.


In total, 15 nonobese young adults (21.0 ± 0.0 years) and 15 older adults (70.7 ± 3.8 years) were recruited. Time spent performing physical activities for 10 days was assessed using a three-dimensional ambulatory accelerometer, and intensity was categorized as light [< 3.0 metabolic equivalents (METs)], moderate (3.0–6.0 METs), or vigorous (> 6.0 METs). Physical activity level was calculated as the product of METs and time spent performing physical activities (MET h) at each intensity level. The IMCL content in the vastus lateralis was determined using 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy after overnight fasting.


No significant differences in IMCL content were observed between young and older adults. Vigorous intensity physical activity (time and MET h) was significantly lower in older than young adults (p < 0.01); this difference was not observed for light and moderate intensity physical activity. Light intensity physical activity (time and MET h) was significantly and inversely correlated with IMCL content in young adults (r = − 0.59 and r = − 0.58; both p < 0.05), but not in older adults.


These results suggest that daily light intensity physical activity reduces resting IMCL content in young adults, whereas no significant relationship was seen between daily physical activity and resting IMCL content in older adults.


Metabolism Metabolic equivalent 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy Aging Skeletal muscle Daily living 



Extramyocellular lipid


Free fatty acid


Magnetic resonance spectroscopy


Intramyocellular lipid


Intramyocellular triglyceride


Metabolic equivalent


Metabolic equivalent × hours

\({V}O_{{2\max }}\)

Maximum oxygen uptake


Vastus lateralis



This project was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (#23650432) to HA and the Descente and Ishimoto Memorial Foundation for the Promotion of Sport Science to YO. We are grateful to Haruo Isoda, MD, Atsushi Fukuyama, PhD, and Akira Ishizuka, RT, at the Nagoya University Brain and Mind Research Center, to Naoji Yasue, MD and Masumi Morita, RN at the Yasue Clinic, and to Yuko Shibata, PhD at the Nagoya University Sports Club for helping with this project.

Author contributions

MH designed the study, and wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. HA contributed to analysis and interpretation of data, and assisted in the preparation of the manuscript. All other authors have contributed to data collection and interpretation, and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript, and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maya Hioki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nana Kanehira
    • 2
  • Teruhiko Koike
    • 3
  • Akira Saito
    • 4
    • 5
  • Hideyuki Takahashi
    • 6
  • Kiyoshi Shimaoka
    • 7
  • Hisataka Sakakibara
    • 1
  • Yoshiharu Oshida
    • 3
  • Hiroshi Akima
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of MedicineNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Health and NutritionTokaigakuen UniversityNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and SportsNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  5. 5.Japan Society for the Promotion of ScienceTokyoJapan
  6. 6.Japan Institute of Sports SciencesTokyoJapan
  7. 7.Department of Human WellnessTokaigakuen UniversityMiyoshiJapan

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