Frailty and exercise in aging population

A structured exercise program was not associated with a decreased risk for frailty among older adults. However, the beneficial effect of the exercise program on reducing major mobility disability was not affected by whether the participants were frail at baseline.

AIM

 

Also see:

Exercise effect in older sedentary adults

Protein intake in aging adults



Annals of Int Med

Patient Education

January 2018

 

What is the problem?

Frailty is often associated with aging. Older adults who are frail may have muscle weakness, unintended weight loss, and fatigue, and they may need help with activities of daily living (for example, taking a bath or putting on clothing). Some studies suggest that teaching older adults to be more physically active helps improve physical functioning and may help decrease their risk for becoming frail.

 

Why do the study?

The investigators wanted to compare the effects of a long-term exercise program with those of a health education program on the study participants' risk for becoming frail. They also wanted to see whether the benefits of the exercise program on physical functioning differed for participants who were frail at baseline compared with those who were not.

 

Who was studied?

1,635 older adults, aged 70 - 90 years, who were not physically active and had functional limitations. To participate in the study, they had to be able to walk a quarter mile (400 meters) without the help of another person or using a walker.

 

How was the study done?

The researchers analyzed data collected for a trial that was completed in 2013. In the trial, the participants were randomly assigned to receive either a structured exercise program or a health education program for about 3 years.

A standard definition was used to classify whether the participants were frail. This definition consisted of measurements of the participants' ability to get up from a chair without using their arms, weight loss, and energy level. The researchers saw the participants every 6 months to measure their ability to walk independently. Major mobility disability (MMD) was defined as not being able to walk a quarter mile within 15 minutes without assistance.

 

What was found?

During the follow-up, the risk for becoming frail did not differ between the group that received the exercise intervention and the group that received health education.

Compared with health education, the exercise intervention was associated with improvement in the participants' ability to get up from a chair without using their arms.

The positive effects of the exercise intervention on the proportion of participants who developed new episodes of MMD or long-term MMD were not affected by whether they were frail at baseline.

 

What are the implications of the study?

A structured exercise program was not associated with a decreased risk for frailty among older adults. However, the beneficial effect of the exercise program on reducing major mobility disability was not affected by whether the participants were frail at baseline.

 

See the original study