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Age (Dordr). 2014 Feb;36(1):395-406. doi: 10.1007/s11357-013-9575-2. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

Impact of whole-body electromyostimulation on body composition in elderly women at risk for sarcopenia: the Training and ElectroStimulation Trial (TEST-III).

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Institute of Medical Physics, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Henkestrasse 91, 91052, Erlangen, Germany,


Most studies have confirmed the positive impact of resistance training on muscle mass and functional capacity in aging adults. However, due to physical limitation or a simple aversion against regular exercise, the majority of elderly subjects do not reach the exercise doses recommended for impacting strength or muscle mass. This led us to evaluate the effect of whole-body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS), a novel, time-efficient and smooth training technology, on body composition with special regard to sarcopenia. Seventy-six lean, non-sportive women (75 ± 4 years) were randomly assigned to either a WB-EMS group (WB-EMS, n = 38) that performed 18 min of WB-EMS (bipolar, 85 Hz) 3 sessions in 14 days (1.5 sessions/week) or a semi-active control group (aCG, n = 38). Body composition was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and maximum strength was evaluated using isometric techniques for trunk and legs. After 54 weeks of intervention, significant inter-group differences were determined for appendicular skeletal muscle mass (WB-EMS, 0.4 ± 2.2 % vs. aCG, -1.5 ± 3.1 %; p = 0.009), lean body mass (WB-EMS, 0.8 ± 1.8 % vs. aCG, -0.8 ± 2.7 %; p = 0.008) and maximum isometric strength (leg extensors, 9.8 ± 12.9 % vs. 0.2 ± 10.4 %; p = 0.003; trunk extensors, 10.1 ± 12.7 vs. -1.6 ± 8.6 %; p = 0.001). Although borderline significant for abdominal fat mass (WB-EMS, -2.9 ± 8.3 vs. aCG, 1.5 ± 10.7 %; p = 0.069), differences did not reach statistically significant levels for body fat parameters. Considering the clinical effectiveness for impacting sarcopenia and the good acceptance of this technology by this non-sportive cohort of elderly women, we conclude that for elderly subjects unable or unwilling to perform dynamic strength exercises, electromyostimulation may be a less off-putting alternative to maintain lean body mass and strength.

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