Progressive resistance strength training (PRT) is an effective intervention for improving physical functioning in older people, including improving strength and the performance of some activities, according to authors of a systematic review published July 8 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Researchers searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialized Register (to March 2007), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2007, Issue 2), MEDLINE (1966 to May 1, 2008), EMBASE (1980 to February 6, 2007), CINAHL (1982 to July 1, 2007) and 2 other electronic databases for research reporting physical outcomes of PRT for older people. They also searched reference lists of articles, reviewed conference abstracts and contacted authors. 

One hundred and twenty one trials with 6,700 participants were included. In most trials, PRT was performed two to three times per week and at a high intensity. PRT resulted in a small but significant improvement in physical ability. Functional limitation measures also showed improvements. There was a modest improvement in gait speed and a moderate to large improvement in getting out of a chair. PRT had a large positive effect on muscle strength. Participants with osteoarthritis reported a reduction in pain. Adverse events were poorly recorded but adverse events related to musculoskeletal complaints, such as joint pain and muscle soreness, were reported in many of the studies that prospectively defined and monitored these events. Serious adverse events were rare, and no serious events were reported to be directly related to the exercise program.

Some caution is needed with transferring these exercises for use with clinical populations because adverse events are not adequately reported.

Call ECRC Physical Therapy if you want to learn how to start a progressive resistance strength training program.