Benefits of resistance training in physically frail elderly: a systematic review

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2018 Aug;30(8):889-899. doi: 10.1007/s40520-017-0863-z. Epub 2017 Nov 29.


Aim: Exercise is one of the most important components in frailty prevention and treatment. Therefore, we systematically reviewed the effect of resistance training (RT) alone or combined with multimodal exercise intervention on muscle hypertrophy, maximal strength, power output, functional performance, and falls incidence in physically frail elderly.

Methods: MEDLINE, Cochrane CENTRAL, PEDro, and SPORTDiscus databases were searched from 2005 to 2017. Studies must have mentioned the effects of RT (i.e., included or not in multimodal training) on at least one of the following parameters: muscle mass, muscle strength, muscle power, functional capacity, and risk of falls in frail elderly.

Results: The initial search identified 371 studies and 16 were used for qualitative analysis for describing the effect of strength training performed alone or in a multimodal exercise intervention. We observed that RT alone or in a multimodal training may induce increases of 6.6-37% in maximal strength; 3.4-7.5% in muscle mass, 8.2% in muscle power, 4.7-58.1% in functional capacity and risk of falls, although some studies did not show enhancements.

Conclusion: Frequency of 1-6 sessions per week, training volume of 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions and intensity of 30-70%1-RM promoted significant enhancements on muscle strength, muscle power, and functional outcomes. Therefore, in agreement with previous studies, we suggest that supervised and controlled RT represents an effective intervention in frailty treatment.

Keywords: Aging; Exercise prescription; Frailty; Multimodal training; Physical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Resistance Training / methods*