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.