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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Jul;105(1):180-6. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01354.2007. Epub 2008 Apr 17.

Resistance training induces qualitative changes in muscle morphology, muscle architecture, and muscle function in elderly postoperative patients.

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  • 1Institute of Sports Medicine, Bispebjerg Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, 2400 NV, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Although the negative effects of bed rest on muscle strength and muscle mass are well established, it still remains a challenge to identify effective methods to restore physical capacity of elderly patients recovering from hospitalization. The present study compared different training regimes with respect to muscle strength, muscle fiber size, muscle architecture, and stair walking power in elderly postoperative patients. Thirty-six patients (60-86 yr) scheduled for unilateral hip replacement surgery due to hip osteoarthritis were randomized to either 1) resistance training (RT: 3/wk x 12 wk), 2) electrical stimulation (ES: 1 h/day x 12 wk), or 3) standard rehabilitation (SR: 1 h/day x 12 wk). All measurements were performed at baseline, at 5 wk and 12 wk postsurgery. After 12 wk of resistance training, maximal dynamic muscle strength increased by 30% at 60 degrees /s (P < 0.05) and by 29% at 180 degrees /s (P < 0.05); muscle fiber area increased for type I (+17%, P < 0.05), type IIa (+37%, P < 0.05), and type IIx muscle fibers (+51%, P < 0.05); and muscle fiber pennation angle increased by 22% and muscle thickness increased by 15% (P < 0.05). Furthermore, stair walking power increased by 35% (P < 0.05) and was related to the increase in type II fiber area (r = 0.729, P < 0.05). In contrast, there was no increase in any measurement outcomes with electrical stimulation and standard rehabilitation. The present study is the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of resistance training to induce beneficial qualitative changes in muscle fiber morphology and muscle architecture in elderly postoperative patients. In contrast, rehabilitation regimes based on functional exercises and neuromuscular electrical stimulation had no effect. The present data emphasize the importance of resistance training in future rehabilitation programs for elderly individuals.

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