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Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Feb;86(2):93-103.

Functional vs. strength training in disabled elderly outpatients.

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MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, Massachusetts 02129-4557, USA.



To determine whether high-intensity functional training (FT) or strength training (ST) better enables impairment, disability, and functional gains among disabled community-dwelling elders.


Randomized, blinded, prospective clinical trial in a large, tertiary care outpatient rehabilitation department. Fifteen elders (62-85 yrs old) referred for physical therapy with one or more impairments, including lower-limb arthritis, participated in 6 wks of FT (weekly outpatient and three to five times per week of home practice in rapid and correct execution of locomotor activities of daily living, including gait, stepping, and sit to stand) or progressive resistive ST using elastic bands with intensity, therapist contact, and home practice similar to those of FT.


Both groups significantly improved their combined lower-extremity strength (hip abduction, ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, ankle plantarflexion, and knee extension) (P = 0.003), but no statistical difference between the ST and FT group gains (P = 0.203) was found. Subjects in both interventions improved their gait speed, but the FT group improved more than the ST group (P = 0.001). During chair rise, the FT group improved their maximum knee torque more than the ST group (P = 0.033), indicating that they employed a more controlled and efficient movement strategy.


These data suggest that an intensive FT intervention results in strength improvements of comparable magnitude as those attained from ST and that FT also confers greater improvements in dynamic balance control and coordination while performing daily life tasks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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