Resistance exercise prevents glucocorticoid-induced myopathy in heart transplant recipients

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Apr;30(4):483-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199804000-00003.


Purpose: To determine the effect of resistance exercise training (ET) on glucocorticoid-induced myopathy in heart transplant recipients (HTR), 14 male HTR were randomly assigned to a ET group that trained for 6 months (54 +/- 3 yr old; mean +/- SD) or a control group (51 +/- 8 yr old; mean +/- SD).

Methods: Fat mass, fat-free mass, and total body mass were measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry before and 2 months after transplantation (Tx), and after 3 and 6 months of ET or control period. The exercise regimen consisted of lumbar extension (MedX) performed 1 d.wk-1 and variable resistance exercises (Nautilus) performed 2 d.wk-1. PreTx body composition did not differ between groups.

Results: At 2 months after Tx, fat-free mass was significantly decreased below baseline in both control (-3.4 +/- 2.1%) and ET groups (-4.3 +/- 2.4%). Fat mass was significantly increased at 2 months after Tx in both the control (+8.3 +/- 2.8%) and ET groups (+7.3 +/- 4.0%). Six months of ET restored fat-free mass to levels 3.9 +/- 2.1% greater (P < or = 0.05) than before Tx. Fat-free mass of the control group decreased progressively to levels that were 7 +/- 4.4% lower than preTx values (P < or = 0.05). Both groups increased knee extension, chest press, and lumbar extensor strength, but improvements in the ET group were four- to six-fold greater (P < or = 0.05).

Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that glucocorticoid-induced changes in body composition in HTR occur early after Tx. However, 6 months of specific ET restores fat-free mass to levels greater than before Tx and dramatically increases skeletal muscle strength. Resistance exercise, as part of a strategy to prevent steroid-induced myopathy, appears to be safe and should be initiated early after heart Tx.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Cardiomyopathies / chemically induced*
  • Cardiomyopathies / prevention & control*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Heart Transplantation / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Weight Lifting*


  • Glucocorticoids