European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 5, pp 989–1001 | Cite as

Lack of age-specific influence on leg blood flow during incremental calf plantar-flexion exercise in men and women

  • Heather Reilly
  • Louise M. Lane
  • Mikel Egaña
Original Article



Age-related exercising leg blood flow (LBF) responses during dynamic knee-extension exercise and forearm blood flow responses during handgrip exercise are preserved in normally active men but attenuated in activity-matched women. We explored whether these age- and sex-specific effects are also apparent during isometric calf plantar-flexion incremental exercise.


Normally active young men (YM, n = 15, 24 ± 2 years), young women (YW, n = 8, 22 ± 1 years), older men (OM, n = 13, 70 ± 7 years) and older women (OW, n = 10, 64 ± 7 years) were tested. LBF was measured between contractions using venous occlusion plethysmography.


Peak force obtained was higher (P < 0.05) in men compared with women and in young compared with older individuals. However, peak LBF (YM; 971 ± 328 ml min−1, OM; 985 ± 504 ml min−1, YW; 844 ± 366 ml min−1, OW; 960 ± 244 ml min−1) and peak leg vascular conductance [LVC = LBF/(MAP + hydrostatic pressure)] responses (YM; 6.0 ± 1.8 ml min−1 mmHg−1, OM; 5.5 ± 2.8 ml min−1 mmHg−1, YW; 5.3 ± 2.1 ml min−1 mmHg−1, OW; 5.5 ± 1.6 ml min−1 mmHg−1) were similar among the four groups. Furthermore, the hyperaemic (YM; 8.8 ± 3.7 ml min−1 %Fpeak−1 OM; 8.3 ± 5.4 ml min−1 %Fpeak−1, YW; 8.2 ± 3.5 ml min−1 %Fpeak−1, OW; 9.6 ± 2.2 ml min−1 %Fpeak−1) and vasodilatory responses (YM; 0.053 ± 0.020 ml min−1 mmHg−1 %Fpeak−1, OM; 0.048 ± 0.028 ml min−1 mmHg−1 %Fpeak−1, YW; 0.051 ± 0.019 ml min−1 mmHg−1 %Fpeak−1, OW; 0.055 ± 0.014 ml min−1 mmHg−1 %Fpeak−1) were not different among the four groups. These results were accompanied by similar resting LBF responses among groups and were not affected when data were normalised to estimated leg muscle mass.


Our results demonstrate that exercising LBF responses during isometric incremental calf muscle exercise are preserved in older men and women, suggesting that the previously observed age-related attenuations in leg and forearm hyperaemia among women may be muscle-group specific.


Age Blood flow Hyperaemia Sex Calf exercise 



Analysis of variance


Blood pressure


Forearm blood flow


Forearm vascular conductance


Leg blood flow


Low-level physical activity recall


Leg vascular conductance


Mean arterial blood pressure


Maximal voluntary contraction


Older men


Older women


Standard deviation


Venous occlusion plethysmography


Young men


Young women



The authors thank Mr David Fletcher (Trinity College Dublin) for improving the rapid tilting manoeuvre of the calf ergometer.

Author contributions

HR, LL and ME conceived and designed research. HR and LL conducted experiments, HR, LL and ME analysed data. HR and ME wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

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

  1. 1.Department of Physiology, School of MedicineTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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