Objective: Despite no evidence to support weight limitations following median sternotomy, sternal precautions continue to be routinely prescribed. Moreover, international cardiac rehabilitation guidelines lack sufficient detail for the implementation of resistance training. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine what the literature defines as resistance training; how resistance training is applied, progressed and evaluated; and, whether resistance training improves physical and functional recovery postoperatively in the cardiac surgical population. Data Sources: Five (5) electronic databases were searched from inception to 28 September 2018 for studies published in English that investigated the effects of a resistance training intervention on physical and functional recovery following median sternotomy. Results: Eighteen (18) trials (n = 3,462) met eligibility criteria and were included in the analysis. Seven (7) randomised controlled trials shared common outcome measures, allowing meta-analysis. The performance of resistance training appears to be safe and feasible, and resulted in similar improvements in both cardiopulmonary capacity and anthropometry, when compared to aerobic training alone. However, the definition and application of resistance training is frequently a lower intensity and volume than recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. Furthermore, sternal precautions are not reflective of the kinematics and weights used when performing many activities of daily living. For this reason, resistance training needs to be task-specific, reflecting functional tasks to promote recovery. Conclusion: Resistance training, in isolation or when combined with aerobic training, may lead to greater improvements in physical and functional recovery following cardiac surgery via median sternotomy; however, further research is required to inform clinical guidelines.
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