Relationship between skeletal mitochondrial function and digital markers of free-living physical activity in older adults

Amal A. Wanigatunga, Fangyu Liu, Ryan J. Dougherty, Karen Bandeen Roche, Jacek Urbanek, Marta Zampino, Eleanor Marie Simonsick, Qu Tian, Jennifer A. Schrack, Luigi Ferrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the association between in vivo skeletal mitochondrial function and digital free-living physical activity patterns—a measure that summarizes biological, phenotypic, functional, and environmental effects on mobility. Among 459 participants (mean age 68 years; 55% women) in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, mitochondrial function was quantified as skeletal muscle oxidative capacity via post-exercise phosphocreatine recovery rate (τPCr) in the vastus lateralis muscle of the left thigh, using 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Accelerometry was collected using a 7-day, 24-h wrist-worn protocol and summarized into activity amount, intensity, endurance, and accumulation patterning metrics. Linear regression, two-part linear and logistic (bout analyses), and linear mixed effects models (time-of-day analyses) were used to estimate associations between τPCr and each physical activity metric. Interactions by age, sex, and gait speed were tested. After covariate adjustment, higher τPCr (or poorer mitochondrial function) was associated with lower activity counts/day (β = − 6593.7, SE = 2406.0; p = 0.006) and activity intensity (− 81.5 counts, SE = 12.9; p < 0.001). For activity intensity, the magnitude of association was greater for men and those with slower gait speed (interaction p < 0.02 for both). Conversely, τPCr was not associated with daily active minutes/day (p = 0.15), activity fragmentation (p = 0.13), or endurance at any bout length (p > 0.05 for all). Time-of-day analyses show participants with high τPCr were less active from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. than those with low τPCr. Results indicate that poorer skeletal mitochondrial function is primarily associated with lower engagement in high intensity activities. Our findings help define the connection between laboratory-measured mitochondrial function and real-world physical activity behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Aging
  • Digital biomarker
  • Movement
  • Muscle oxidative capacity
  • Technology
  • Wearables

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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