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Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Feb;24(1):e1-10. doi: 10.1111/sms.12123. Epub 2013 Oct 24.

Responsiveness of muscle size and strength to physical training in very elderly people: a systematic review.

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Department of Clinical and Surgical Sciences (Surgery), School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


The purpose of this review was to determine whether very elderly muscle (>75 years) hypertrophies in response to physical training. The databases MEDLINE; EMBASE; CINAHL Plus and SPORTDiscus were systematically literature searched with reference lists of all included studies and relevant reviews. Controlled trials (inactive elderly control group) involving healthy elderly participants over 75 years participating in an intervention complying with an established definition of physical training were included. Data extraction and quality assessment were performed using the PEDro scale. Data analysis was performed on muscle size and strength using RevMan (software version 5.1). Four studies were included of which four of four measured changes in gross muscle size. Training induced increases in muscle size from 1.5%-15.6% were reported in three of four studies, and one of four studies reported a decrease in muscle size (3%). The greatest gain in muscle mass was observed in a study of whole body vibration training. Meta-analysis of three studies found an increase of thigh muscle cross-sectional area (mean difference 2.31 cm(2) or 0.2%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.62 to 4.00; P = 0.008) and muscle strength (standardized mean difference 1.04, 95% CI: 0.65 to 1.43; P < 0.001). Physical training when delivered as resistance training has the ability to elicit hypertrophy and increase muscle strength in very elderly muscle.


muscle size; progressive resistance training; sarcopenia

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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