Background: Few high-quality trials have examined the effects of progressive resistance training (PRT) on people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Objective: To determine the effectiveness of PRT for people with MS, focusing on improving the gait deficits common in this population.
Methods: Using a single blind randomized controlled trial, people with relapsing-remitting MS were randomly allocated to either a PRT program targeting the lower limb muscles twice a week for 10 weeks (n = 36), or usual care plus an attention and social program conducted once a week for 10 weeks (n = 35). Outcomes were recorded at baseline, week 10 and week 22.
Results: Participants attended 92% of training sessions, with no serious adverse events. At 10 weeks, no differences were detected in walking performance. However, compared with the comparison group PRT demonstrated increased leg press strength (16.8%, SD 4.5), increased reverse leg press strength (29.8%, SD 12.7), and increased muscle endurance of the reverse leg press (38.7%, SD 32.8). Improvements in favor of PRT were also found for physical fatigue (Mean difference -3.9 units, 95%CI -6.6 to -1.3), and the physical health domain of quality of life (Mean difference 1.5 units, 95%CI 0.1 to 2.9). At week 22 almost no between-group differences remained.
Conclusion: PRT is a relatively safe intervention that can have short-term effects on reducing physical fatigue, increasing muscle endurance and can lead to small improvements in muscle strength and quality of life in people with relapsing-remitting MS. However, no improvements in walking performance were observed and benefits do not appear to persist if training is completely stopped.