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The Role of Blood Flow Restriction Training to Mitigate Sarcopenia, Dynapenia, and Enhance Clinical Recovery

Hackney, Kyle J., PhD*; Brown, LTC William J., PhD, RN, FNP-BC; Stone, Kara A., MS*; Tennent, David J., MD

doi: 10.1097/BTO.0000000000000271

Aging is associated with progressive losses of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and strength (dynapenia) leading to reduced functional capacity. Traditional aerobic and resistance exercises are commonly recommended to enhance health and mitigate aging-related performance concerns. Recently, blood flow restriction (BFR) exercise has gained scientific merit as a hybrid aerobic and resistance exercise intervention that may be suitable for application in older adults and following musculoskeletal injury to both mitigate and treat the resulting sarcopenia or dynapenia. Muscle hypertrophy ranging from <1% to 2.6% per week and muscle strength gain ranging from <1% to 5.9% per week have been reported following BFR exercise training when combined with various methods (walking, body weight, elastic bands, and traditional weight training). Further, given the projected increase in orthopedic surgeries in the aging population, the anabolic potential of BFR exercise methodology has gained additional interest the area of clinical rehabilitation following musculoskeletal insult. In particular, older adults recovering from various medical procedures may benefit from BFR exercise in order to regain muscular strength and size during recovery to avoid any additional complications from anabolic resistance, weakness, or disuse. Although care should be taken when selecting BFR exercises over traditional therapy interventions, there is evidence BFR exercise is a suitable intervention to mitigate sarcopenia and dynapenia and enhance muscle strength and mass recovery following various clinical conditions. Further, as BFR exercise provides an additional intervention to improve functional capacity by increasing muscle strength, mass and endurance, it’s utility in mitigating sarcopenia and dynapenia in at risk individuals (ie, frail elderly, postoperative) is becoming more apparent.

*Muscle, Metabolism, & Ergogenics Laboratory, Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

Department of Nursing, Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, NC

Department of Orthopaedics, San Antonio Military Medical Center, Ft Sam Houston, TX

The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

For reprint requests, or additional information and guidance on the techniques described in the article, please contact Kyle J. Hackney, PhD, at or by mail at Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, P.O. Box 2620, Department 2620, Fargo, ND 58108-6050. You may inquire whether the author(s) will agree to phone conferences and/or visits regarding these techniques.

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