There is considerable evidence for the proposition that older people engage in too little physical activity. Our modern societies of comfort and our engines of transport enable a sedentary lifestyle, to our detriment. The harms done by remaining sedentary are large enough that physical activity begins to look like an effective intervention. It reduces mortality, slows onset of age-related disease, and, as noted here, can reverse the progression of age-related frailty.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in older age is associated with a lower level of frailty. However, studies on the association between physical activity (PA) and frailty among older adults show contradictory results. Some studies suggest that regular PA may delay the onset of frailty and reduce its severity, but others found that PA was not associated with a decreased risk for frailty among older adults. Second, most of the longitudinal studies on PA and frailty examine baseline PA only in relation to changes in frailty, and evidence on the association between change in PA and frailty is limited. Additionally, most studies on PA and frailty have been conducted in adults aged 50 to 70 years, and evidence on the longitudinal association between PA and frailty in adults older than 70 years is relatively scarce.
Most previous studies on PA and frailty have focused on physical frailty only, and to date there has been little research into psychological and social frailty. Therefore, the aim of our study was to examine the longitudinal association between frequency of moderate PA and overall, physical, psychological, and social frailty among community-dwelling older adults older than 70 years. Second, we assessed the association between a 12-month change in frequency of moderate PA and frailty.
Participants who undertook moderate PA with a regular frequency at baseline were less frail at 12-month follow-up than participants with a low frequency. Participants who undertook moderate PA with a continued regular frequency were least frail at baseline and at 12-month follow-up. After controlling for baseline frailty and covariates, compared with participants with a continued regular frequency, participants with a decreased frequency were significantly more overall, physically, psychologically, and socially frail at 12-month follow-up. Participants with a continued low frequency were significantly more overall, physically, psychologically, and socially frail at 12-month follow-up. The 12-month follow-up frailty level of participants who undertook moderate PA with an increased frequency was similar to those with a continued regular frequency.