April 2017

Even in older women, mechanical loading leads to Achilles adaptation

In the moment: Rehabilitation

By Jordana Bieze Foster

Fourteen weeks of mechanical loading is associated with Achilles tendon adaptations in senior women, according to German findings suggesting older age should not exclude patients from exercise-based Achilles rehabilitation.

Researchers from the German Sport University Cologne analyzed 34 women (mean age, 65 years) with no history of Achilles injury in the previous five years; 21 completed 14 weeks of high-strain cyclic loading exercises, while the remaining 12 women formed a control group. Twelve members of the exercise group continued the intervention for 1.5 years.

Exercises emphasizing isometric plantar flexion contractions were done three times per week for the first 14 weeks and twice a week thereafter, for about 50 minutes per session.

After 14 weeks of loading, the women experienced significantly increased Achilles tendon stiffness, hypertrophy, and a 22% increase in ankle plantar flexion moment. However, no further improvement was noted after 1.5 years.

The findings were published in March by the Journal of Experimental Biology.


Epro G, Mierau A, Doerner J, et al. The Achilles tendon is mechanosensitive in older adults: adaptations following 14 weeks versus 1.5 years of cyclic strain exercise. J Exp Biol 2017;220(Pt 6): 1008-1018.

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