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Herein we report that production of the endogenous peptide apelin, induced by muscle contraction, is reduced in an age-dependent manner in humans and rodents and is positively associated with the beneficial effects of exercise in older persons. Mice deficient in either apelin or its receptor (APLNR) presented dramatic alterations in muscle function with increasing age. [Our] findings revealed positive regulatory feedback between physical activity, apelin and muscle function and identified apelin both as a tool for diagnosis of early sarcopenia and as the target of an innovative pharmacological strategy to prevent age-associated muscle weakness and restore physical autonomy.