Even the Very Elderly and Frail May Benefit from Exercise

  All seniors, even those considered frail, can enjoy the benefits of exercise in terms of their physical and cognitive faculties and quality of life, according to a new Canadian study. Researchers studied the effects of exercise on frail older adults and found that the benefits appear after only three months. This discovery is excellent news. Increases in life expectancy over the past 20 years have also increased the number of frail seniors in our greater Seattle community. Frailty is associated with a higher risk of falls, hospitalizations, cognitive decline and psychological distress. It is now estimated that 7% of seniors aged 65 to 74, 18% of those aged 75 to 84, and 37% of seniors over the age of 85 suffer from frailty. “My team was able to demonstrate that sedentary and frail senior citizens can benefit from major improvements not only in terms of physical function but also brain function, such as memory, and quality of life,” said study investigator Louis Bherer, who is with the University of Montreal. In this study, 43 adults between the ages of 61 and 89 were studied, some of whom were considered frail. All 43 adults took part in group exercises (3 times a week for 12 weeks). This group of 43 adults was compared to a control group of 40 adults who did not follow the exercise program. The researchers found larger improvement in physical capacity (functional capacities and physical endurance), cognitive performance (executive functions, processing speed and working memory) and quality of life among those in the exercise group. In addition, the benefits were equivalent among frail and non-frail participants suggesting it is never too late to engage in exercise intervention programs. John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio broadcaster of “The Medical Minute.” He can be reached at [email protected] This aticle was originally published in Northwest Prime Time.

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