Preprint / Version 1

A PubMed search filter for efficiently retrieving exercise training studies


  • David Yin Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University
  • Mikaela Engracia Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University
  • Matthew Edema Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University
  • David Clarke Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University



search filter, search hedge, exercise training, kinesiology, PubMed, evidence-based practice, information storage and retrieval


Background: A barrier to evidence-informed exercise programming is locating studies of exercise training programs. The purpose of this study was to create a search filter for studies of exercise training programs for the PubMed electronic bibliographic database. 

Methods: Candidate search terms were identified from three sources: exercise-relevant MeSH terms and their corresponding Entry terms, word frequency analysis of articles in a gold-standard reference set curated from systematic reviews focused on exercise training, and retrospective searching of articles retrieved in the search filter testing step. These terms were assembled into an exercise training search filter, and its performance was assessed against a basic search string applied to six case studies. Search string performance was measured as sensitivity (relative recall), precision, and number needed to read (NNR). We aimed to achieve relative recall ≥85%, and a NNR ≤2.

Results: The gold standard consisted of 71 articles drawn from six systematic reviews. Sixty-five candidate search terms were evaluated for inclusion, 28 of which were included in the finalized exercise-training search filter. The relative recall of the search filter was 96% for the reference set and the precision mean±SD was 54±16% across the case studies, with the corresponding NNR = ~2. The exercise training search filter consistently outperformed the basic search string.

Conclusion: The exercise training search filter fosters more efficient searches for studies of exercise training programs in the PubMed electronic bibliographic database. This search string may therefore support evidence-informed practice in exercise programming.


Metrics Loading ...


Pearson A, Jordan Z, Munn Z, Others. Translational science and evidence-based healthcare: a clarification and reconceptualization of how knowledge is generated and used in healthcare. Nurs Res Pract. 2012;2012: 792519. doi:10.1155/2012/792519

Akobeng AK. Principles of evidence based medicine. Arch Dis Child. 2005;90: 837–840. doi:10.1136/adc.2005.071761

Physical Conditioning, Human - MeSH - NCBI. [cited 28 Jul 2023]. Available:

Sanz-Valero J, Ferreira MS, Castiel LD, Wanden-Berghe C, Guilam MCR. Brazilian academic search filter: application to the scientific literature on physical activity. Rev Saúde Pública. 2010;44: 877–883. doi:10.1590/S0034-89102010005000024

Campbell S. A Hedge to Retrieve Studies Related to OECD Countries (2019) from the Ovid MEDLINE Database. In: ERA [Internet]. 11 Mar 2019 [cited 28 Jul 2023]. doi:10.7939/r3-gtzb-bv33

PubMed Overview. [cited 30 Jul 2023]. Available:

Jenkins M. Evaluation of methodological search filters—a review. Health Inf Libr J. 2004;21: 148–163. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2004.00511.x

Sale DG. Neural adaptation to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1988;20: S135–S145. doi:10.1249/00005768-198810001-00009

Entry Terms and Other Cross-References. [cited 28 Jul 2023]. Available:

Word Frequency Counter. [cited 30 Jul 2023]. Available:

PubMed User Guide. [cited 30 Jul 2023]. Available:

Searching PubMed: Filters and Narrowing Searches. [cited 30 Jul 2023]. Available:

Sampson M, Zhang L, Morrison A, Barrowman NJ, Clifford TJ, Platt RW, et al. An alternative to the hand searching gold standard: validating methodological search filters using relative recall. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2006;6: 33. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-6-33

Exercise - MeSH - NCBI. [cited 28 Jul 2023]. Available:

Cooper R, Hughes M. Melbourne ACL Rehabilitation Guide 2.0. 2018.

Engel FA, Ackermann A, Chtourou H, Sperlich B. High-intensity interval training performed by young athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Physiol. 2018;9: 1012. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01012

Depiazzi JE, Forbes RA, Gibson N, Smith NL, Wilson AC, Boyd RN, et al. The effect of aquatic high-intensity interval training on aerobic performance, strength and body composition in a non-athletic population: systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rehabil. 2019;33: 157–170. doi:10.1177/0269215518792039

Williams AD, Bird M-L, Hardcastle SGK, Kirschbaum M, Ogden KJ, Walters JAE. Exercise for reducing falls in people living with and beyond cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011687.pub2

Sabag A, Najafi A, Michael S, Esgin T, Halaki M, Hackett D. The compatibility of concurrent high intensity interval training and resistance training for muscular strength and hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2018;36: 2472–2483. doi:10.1080/02640414.2018.1464636

Kuntze G, Nesbitt C, Whittaker JL, Nettel-Aguirre A, Toomey C, Esau S, et al. Exercise therapy in juvenile idiopathic arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018;99: 178–193. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2017.05.030

Pérez Chaparro CGA, Zech P, Schuch F, Wolfarth B, Rapp M, Heiβel A. Effects of aerobic and resistance exercise alone or combined on strength and hormone outcomes for people living with HIV. A meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2018;13: e0203384. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203384

Gordon B, American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s Resources for the Exercise Physiologist. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2021.

Kluding PM, Pasnoor M, Singh R, D’Silva LJ, Yoo M, Billinger SA, et al. Safety of aerobic exercise in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy: single-group clinical trial. Phys Ther. 2015;95: 223–234. doi:10.2522/ptj.20140108

Bellavere F, Cacciatori V, Bacchi E, Gemma ML, Raimondo D, Negri C, et al. Effects of aerobic or resistance exercise training on cardiovascular autonomic function of subjects with type 2 diabetes: A pilot study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2018;28: 226–233. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2017.12.008

Pardos-Mainer E, Lozano D, Torrontegui-Duarte M, Cartón-Llorente A, Roso-Moliner A. Effects of strength vs. plyometric training programs on vertical jumping, linear sprint and change of direction speed performance in female soccer players: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18: 401. doi:10.3390/ijerph18020401

de Villarreal ES, Requena B, Cronin JB. The effects of plyometric training on sprint performance: a meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26: 575–584. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318220fd03

Sloth M, Sloth D, Overgaard K, Dalgas U. Effects of sprint interval training on VO2max and aerobic exercise performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013;23: e341-352. doi:10.1111/sms.12092

Ferley DD, Scholten S, Vukovich MD. Combined sprint interval, plyometric, and strength training in adolescent soccer players: effects on measures of speed, strength, power, change of direction, and anaerobic capacity. J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34: 957–968. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003476

Aloui G, Souhail H, Hayes LD, Bouhafs EG, Chelly MS, Schwesig R. Effects of combined plyometric and short sprints training on athletic performance of male u19 soccer players. Front Psychol. 2021;12: 714016. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.714016

Hughes SL, Seymour RB, Campbell R, Pollak N, Huber G, Sharma L. Impact of the fit and strong intervention on older adults with osteoarthritis. The Gerontologist. 2004;44: 217–228. doi:10.1093/geront/44.2.217

Chang S-Y, Lin Y-J, Hsu W-C, Hsieh L-F, Lin Y-H, Chang C-C, et al. Exercise alters gait pattern but not knee load in patients with knee osteoarthritis. BioMed Res Int. 2016;2016. doi:10.1155/2016/7468937

Zou C-J, Li J-H, Wu F-C, Li Y-Z, Pan H-Y, Wu T. The effects of core stability training in nurses with nonspecific low back pain. Medicine (Baltimore). 2021;100. doi:10.1097%2FMD.0000000000026357

Nabavi N, Bandpei MAM, Mosallanezhad Z, Rahgozar M, Jaberzadeh S. The effect of 2 different exercise programs on pain intensity and muscle dimensions in patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2018;41: 102–110. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2017.03.011

Park K-N, Kwon O-Y, Yi C-H, Cynn H-S, Weon J-H, Kim T-H, et al. Effects of motor control exercise vs muscle stretching exercise on reducing compensatory lumbopelvic motions and low back pain: a randomized trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2016;39: 576–585. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.07.006

Descarreaux M, Normand MC, Laurencelle L, Dugas C. Evaluation of a specific home exercise program for low back pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002;25: 497–503. doi:10.1067/mmt.2002.127078

Arundale AJH, Capin JJ, Zarzycki R, Smith A, Snyder-Mackler L. Functional and patient-reported outcomes improve over the course of rehabilitation: a secondary analysis of the ACL-SPORTS trial. Sports Health. 2018;10: 441–452. doi:10.1177/1941738118779023

Welling W, Benjaminse A, Lemmink K, Dingenen B, Gokeler A. Progressive strength training restores quadriceps and hamstring muscle strength within 7 months after ACL reconstruction in amateur male soccer players. Phys Ther Sport. 2019;40: 10–18. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2019.08.004

Southerst D, Nordin MC, Cote P, Shearer HM, Varatharajan S, Yu H, et al. Is exercise effective for the management of neck pain and associated disorders or whiplash-associated disorders? A systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. Spine J. 2016;16: 1503–1523. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2014.02.014

Teasell RW, McClure JA, Walton D, Pretty J, Salter K, Meyer M, et al. A research synthesis of therapeutic interventions for whiplash-associated disorder (WAD): part 3–interventions for subacute WAD. Pain Res Manag. 2010;15: 305–312. doi:10.1155/2010/108685

Griffin A, Leaver A, Moloney N. General exercise does not improve long-term pain and disability in individuals with whiplash-associated disorders: a systematic review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47: 472–480. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7081

Ludvigsson ML, Peterson G, Widh S, Peolsson A. Exercise, headache, and factors associated with headache in chronic whiplash: analysis of a randomized clinical trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98. doi:10.1097%2FMD.0000000000018130

Ask T, Strand LI, Sture Skouen J. The effect of two exercise regimes; motor control versus endurance/strength training for patients with whiplash-associated disorders: a randomized controlled pilot study. Clin Rehabil. 2009;23: 812–823. doi:10.1177/0269215509335639

Villafañe JH, Perucchini D, Cleland JA, Barbieri C, de Lima e Sá Resende F, Negrini S. The effectiveness of a cognitive behavioral exercise approach (CBEA) compared to usual care in patients with a Whiplash Associated Disorder: A quasi-experimental clinical trial. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017;30: 943–950. doi:10.3233/BMR-140162

Smith A, Ritchie C, Pedler A, McCamley K, Roberts K, Sterling M. Exercise induced hypoalgesia is elicited by isometric, but not aerobic exercise in individuals with chronic whiplash associated disorders. Scand J Pain. 2017;15: 14–21. doi:10.1016/j.sjpain.2016.11.007

Epps H, Ginnelly L, Utley M, Southwood T, Gallivan S, Sculpher M, et al. Is hydrotherapy cost-effective? A randomised controlled trial of combined hydrotherapy programmes compared with physiotherapy land techniques in children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Health Technol Assess. 2005;9: iii—-iv. doi:10.3310/hta9390

Agin D, Gallagher D, Wang J, Heymsfield SB, Pierson RN, Kotler DP. Effects of whey protein and resistance exercise on body cell mass, muscle strength, and quality of life in women with HIV. AIDS. 2001;15: 2431–2440. doi:10.1097/00002030-200112070-00011

Bhasin S. Testosterone Replacement and Resistance Exercise in HIV-Infected Men With Weight Loss and Low Testosterone Levels. JAMA. 2000;283: 763. doi:10.1001/jama.283.6.763

Ingebrigtsen J, Shalfawi SAI, Tønnessen E, Krustrup P, Holtermann A. Performance Effects of 6 Weeks of Aerobic Production Training in Junior Elite Soccer Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27: 1861–1867. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827647bd

SPORTDiscus | EBSCO. [cited 23 Nov 2023]. Available: