Sullivan DH, Wall PT, Bariola JR, Bopp MM, Frost YM: Progressive resistance muscle strength training of hospitalized frail elderly. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2001;80:503–509.
To determine whether frail elderly patients recuperating from acute illnesses could safely participate in and gain appreciable improvement in muscle strength from progressive resistance muscle strength training.
Muscle strength (one repetition maximum), functional abilities (sit-to-stand maneuver and 20-sec maximal safe gait speed), and body composition were measured before and at the conclusion of a 10-wk program of lower limb progressive resistance muscle strength training. The nonrandomized study was conducted in a 30-bed geriatric rehabilitation unit of a university-affiliated Veterans Affairs hospital and a 28-bed transitional care unit of a community nursing home. Participants included 19 recuperating elderly subjects (14 male, 5 female; 13 ambulatory, 6 nonambulatory) >64 yr (mean age, 82.8 ± 7.9 yr).
The one repetition maximum increased an average of 74% ± 49% (median, 70%; interquartile range, 38%–95%, and an average of 20 ± 13 kg (P = 0.0001). Sit-to-stand maneuver times improved in 15 of 19 cases (79%). Maximum safe gait speeds improved in 10 of 19 cases (53%). Four of the six nonambulatory subjects progressed to ambulatory status. No subject experienced a complication.
A carefully monitored program of progressive resistance muscle strength training to regain muscle strength is a safe and possibly effective method for frail elderly recuperating from acute illnesses. A randomized control study is needed to examine the degree to which progressive resistance muscle strength training offers advantages, if any, over routine posthospital care that includes traditional low-intensity physical therapy.
From the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (DHS), and the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics (DHS, JRB, MMB, YMF) and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PTW), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.
All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dennis H. Sullivan, MD, Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (182/LR), Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, 4300 West Seventh Street, Little Rock, AR 72205.
Research funding was provided by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine and Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics Intramural Grant Programs.