Regular postexercise cooling enhances mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK and p38 MAPK in human skeletal muscle

Document Type

Journal Article


American Physiological Society


Centre for Exercise and Sport Science Research / School of Exercise and Health Sciences




Ihsan, M., Markworth, J.F., Watson, G., et al. (2015) Regular postexercise cooling enhances mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK and p38 MAPK in human skeletal muscle. In American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 309(3), R286-R294.Available here.


This study investigated the effect of regular postexercise cold water immersion (CWI) on muscle aerobic adaptations to endurance training. Eight males performed 3 sessions/wk of endurance training for 4 wk. Following each session, subjects immersed one leg in a cold water bath (10°C; COLD) for 15 min, while the contralateral leg served as a control (CON). Muscle biopsies were obtained from vastus lateralis of both CON and COLD legs prior to training and 48 h following the last training session. Samples were analyzed for signaling kinases: p38 MAPK and AMPK, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1α (PGC-1α), enzyme activities indicative of mitochondrial biogenesis, and protein subunits representative of respiratory chain complexes I–V. Following training, subjects' peak oxygen uptake and running velocity were improved by 5.9% and 6.2%, respectively (P < 0.05). Repeated CWI resulted in higher total AMPK, phosphorylated AMPK, phosphorylated acetyl-CoA carboxylase, β-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA-dehydrogenase and the protein subunits representative of complex I and III (P < 0.05). Moreover, large effect sizes (Cohen's d > 0.8) were noted with changes in protein content of p38 (d = 1.02, P = 0.064), PGC-1α (d = 0.99, P = 0.079), and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (d = 0.93, P = 0.10) in COLD compared with CON. No differences between conditions were observed in the representative protein subunits of respiratory complexes II, IV, and V and in the activities of several mitochondrial enzymes (P > 0.05). These findings indicate that regular CWI enhances p38, AMPK, and possibly mitochondrial biogenesis.