Physical Function and Mobility - The Role of BFR

BFR - A method of improving physical function and mobility in those who may not be able to undertake traditional training programmes.

In previous blogs we have discussed how BFR can be used to improve performance in athletes. BFR can also have benefits in a more clinical setting, helping those who are unable to use traditional training methods. This includes the elderly population who may have declining physical function and low mobility, or those with pre-existing conditions such as anterior knee pain (AKP).

Physical Function and Mobility - The Background

Muscle atrophy naturally occurs with aging. This causes an increase risk of falls, osteoporosis, cardiovascular complications and impaired performance of the activities of daily living (ADL). This is associated with a greater burden on the NHS, causing longer wait times and therefore further declines in health. It is vital to develop strategies to maintain physical function, mobility and therefore the independence of these individuals. This will increase their standard of living as well as reducing the stress on the NHS. These strategies and interventions are often not suitable for those unable to use to traditional training methods such as resistance and/or cardiovascular training. BFR is a viable, manageable and proven method to benefit these individuals.

Results from Research

Walking training alone has been shown to slow age related decline in functional abilitly. Combining this traning with BFR has shown to have even greater benefits. Improved performance in tests such as the 30 Second Sit to Stand, Timed Up and Go, and the Six Minute Walk Test all suggest better mobility and physical function and ultimately quality of life. Muscle atrophy naturally occurs as we get older but can be brought on by other circumstances beyond our control. For example, unloading due to illness or injury. It has been shown that the application of a BFR cuff twice a day over a 2 week period (pressure: 50mmHg. 5 sets @ 5 mins on/3 mins off), significantly reduced the muscle weakness caused by chronic unloading. Anterior knee pain (AKP) may affect up to 40% of the population. Interventions that could benefit these individuals have been investigated for years and recently BFR has been drawing significant attention . Training involving low load resistance training, combined with BFR, has been shown to significantly lower pain scores in those with AKP. This combined training would provide clinicians an opportunity to prescribe knee loading exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles and potentially resolve the AKP.


BFR can play a significant role not only with athletes, but within a clinical population. BFR can:
  • increase physical function,
  • reduce muscular weakness caused by chronic unloading and
  • aid with the treatment of AKP.
Using BFR for purposes such as these will reduce the strain on the NHS. During this uncertain time we are currently living in due to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic, any way we can reduce this pressure on our health service should be investigated.

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