Cardiorespiratory fitness and mitochondrial oxidative capacity are associated with reduced walking speed in older adults. The impact of cardiorespiratory fitness and mitochondrial oxidative capacity on walking speed in older adults with diabetes has not been clearly defined. We examined differences in cardiorespiratory fitness and skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidative capacity between older adults with and without diabetes as well as determine their relative contribution to slower walking speed in older adults with diabetes. Participants with diabetes (n=159) had lower cardiorespiratory fitness and mitochondrial respiration in permeabilized fiber bundles when compared to those without diabetes (n=717), following adjustments for covariates including BMI, chronic comorbid health conditions, and physical activity. 4-m and 400-m walking speeds were slower in those with diabetes. Mitochondrial oxidative capacity alone or combined with cardiorespiratory fitness mediated ∼20–70% of the difference in walk speed between older adults with and without diabetes. Additional adjustments with BMI and co-morbidities further explained the group differences in walk speed. Cardiorespiratory fitness and skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidative capacity contribute to slower walking speeds in older adults with diabetes.

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