Objective: To examine the effects of an exercise program and an enriched food regimen on physical functioning of frail elderly persons.
Design: A 17-week randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Participants: One hundred fifty-seven independently living frail elderly (mean age, 78.7 +/- 5.6yr).
Intervention: Thirty-nine subjects participated in a twice weekly group exercise designed to improve daily functioning; 39 subjects daily ate foods enriched with vitamins and minerals (at 25%-100% of the recommended daily allowances); 42 subjects exercised and ate enriched foods; and 37 subjects served as controls. Nonexercising groups followed a social program; nonsupplement groups received the same food products without the micronutrients.
Main outcome measures: Functional performance based on 6 performance tests, physical fitness based on 7 fitness tests, and disabilities based on the self-reported ability to perform 16 daily activities.
Results: Performance sum scores were significantly enhanced in trained (+8%) compared with nontrained subjects (-8%) (difference in change: 1.9 points, p < .001, adjusted for baseline scores). Fitness sum scores were significantly enhanced as well (+3% in trained vs -2% in nontrained) (difference in change: 0.9 points, p = .05, adjusted for baseline scores). No exercise effects on the disability score were observed. Consumption of enriched products did not affect performance, fitness, or disability scores.
Conclusion: Our comprehensive exercise program, designed for widespread applicability, enhanced physical performance and fitness in a population of frail elderly. Daily consumption of micronutrient enriched foods showed no functional benefits within 17 weeks.