The influence of resistance training on neuromuscular function in middle-aged and older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Emily James*, Simon Nichols, Stuart Goodall, Kirsty M. Hicks, Alasdair F. O'Doherty

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Deterioration of neuromuscular function is a major mechanism of age-related strength loss. Resistance training (RT) improves muscle strength and mass. However, the effects of RT on neuromuscular adaptations in middle-aged and older adults are unclear. Randomised controlled RT interventions (≥2 weeks) involving adults aged ≥50 years were identified. Primary outcome measures were voluntary activation (VA), electromyographic (EMG) activity during maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), and antagonist coactivation. Data were pooled using a weighted random-effect model. Sub-analyses were conducted by muscle or muscle group and health status of participants. Sensitivity analysis was based on study quality. P <0.05 indicated statistical significance. Twenty-seven studies were included. An effect was found for VA (standardised mean difference [SMD] 0.54, 0.01 to 1.07, P = 0.04), This result remained significant following sensitivity analysis involving only studies that were low risk of bias. Subgroup analyses showed an effect for plantar flexor VA (SMD 1.13, 0.20 to 2.06, P = 0.02) and VA in healthy participants (SMD 1.04, 0.32 to 1.76, P = 0.004). There was no effect for EMG activity or antagonist coactivation of any muscle group (P > 0.05). Resistance training did not alter EMG activity or antagonist coactivation in older adults. Sensitivity analysis resulted in the effect for VA remaining significant, indicating that this finding was not dependent on study quality. Studies predominantly involved healthy older adults (78%), limiting the generalisability of these findings to clinical cohorts. Future research should determine the effects of RT on neuromuscular function in people with sarcopenia and age-related syndromes. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.]
Original languageEnglish
Article number111320
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Volume149
Early online date24 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2021

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