BACKGROUND: Exercise has been known to preserve and enhance functional performance in older adults. Eccentric exercise involves muscle contractions characterised by unique features such as lengthening of the muscle-tendon complex by a greater opposing force.
AIMS: To systematically review randomised-controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effectiveness of eccentric exercises in reducing the incidence of falls and improving the functional performance in older adults.
KEY METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of RCTs following the PRISMA-P guidelines. Searches were completed in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, CINAHL, Medline, and Global Health CABI. We included RCTs reporting at least one of the following outcomes-falls, Berg balance scale, timed-up and go test, chair stand test, stair climb test, maximal walking speed, and minute walking distance. Two reviewers screened papers for eligibility and assessed the quality of included papers using the Cochrane Collaborative risk-of-bias tool for randomised trials. Data were extracted by a single reviewer and cross-checked by the second reviewer. A narrative synthesis was undertaken, given the high level of heterogeneity across studies.
RESULTS: Ten studies were assessed as eligible for inclusion in the review. Overall, eccentric exercises were as effective as conventional resistance exercises in improving the selected outcomes by most studies. Additionally, when pre-exercise and post-eccentric exercise functional performance measures were compared, there was a statistically significant improvement in nearly all measures. The quality of trials was mixed (one high, four moderate, two low-moderate, and three low risk of bias).
CONCLUSIONS: Our systematic review suggests that eccentric exercises can be as effective as conventional exercises in older adults. Evidence suggests that such exercise interventions can lead to an improvement in geriatric function.