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J Nutr Health Aging. 2019;23(6):494-502. doi: 10.1007/s12603-019-1196-8.

Exercise Interventions for the Prevention and Treatment of Sarcopenia. A Systematic Umbrella Review.

Author information

Ivan Bautmans, Gerontology (GERO) and Frailty in Ageing research (FRIA) departments, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Laarbeeklaan 103, B-1090 Brussels, Belgium, Email address:, Phone number: +32 2 477 42 07.



The aim of this systematic review is to provide an overview of the efficacy of different exercise interventions to counter sarcopenia in older adults. This review will allow the Belgian Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics and other scientific societies to formulate specific exercise recommendations in their Clinical Guidelines for Sarcopenia.


We used the method of a systematic umbrella-review. Based on the level of evidence, we formulated specific recommendations for clinical practice.


Two databases (Pubmed and Web Of Science) were searched systematically and methodological quality of the reviews was assessed. Extracted data was than mapped to an exercise category and an overall synthesis (bottom line statements) was formulated for each of these exercise categories. Subsequently, we assigned a rating of the quality of the evidence supporting each bottom line statement.


We identified 14 systematic reviews or meta-analyses, encompassing four exercise categories: resistance training, resistance training + nutritional supplementation, multimodal exercise programmes and bloodflow restriction training. Importantly, very few systematic reviews or meta-analyses clearly mentioned baseline sarcopenia status. There is high quality evidence for a positive and significant effect of resistance training on muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance. The added effect of nutritional supplementation for resistance training on muscle function appears limited. Blood flow restriction training is a novel training method that has a significant impact on muscle strength.


Since sarcopenia is affecting all skeletal muscles in the body, we recommend training the large muscle groups in a total body approach. Although low-intensity resistance training (≤50% 1RM) is sufficient to induce strength gains, we recommend a high-intensity resistance training program (i.e. 80% 1RM) to obtain maximal strength gains. Multimodal exercises and blood flow restriction resistance training may be considered as well.


Exercise; muscle mass; muscle strength; physical performance; sarcopenia


Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review

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