Physical activity and mortality in frail, community-living elderly patients

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004 Aug;59(8):833-7. doi: 10.1093/gerona/59.8.m833.


Background: The authors describe the prevalence of moderate-intensity physical activity in a population of older persons living in the community. In addition, they explore the relationship between physical activity and mortality.

Methods: In this longitudinal observational study, the authors analyzed data from patients admitted to home care programs collected as part of the Italian Silver Network Home Care project. Twelve home health agencies participated in the project, which evaluated the implementation of the Minimum Data Set for Home Care (MDS-HC) instrument. A total of 2757 patients were enrolled in the current study. The primary outcome measures were the prevalence of 2 or more hours per week of physical activity and survival.

Results: Fewer than 20% of patients had regular physical activity. During a median follow-up period of 10 months from the initial MDS-HC assessment, 442 (16%) patients died. After adjusting for sex, physical and cognitive disability, and all potential risk factors for death, active patients were less likely to die compared with those with no or very low-intensity physical activity (relative risk ratio [RR], 0.51; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.35-0.73). This inverse relationship was also significant in patients aged 80 years and older (RR 0.55; 95% CI, 0.32-0.95).

Conclusions: Physical activity is associated with a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality. The current findings support the possibility that moderate-intensity physical activity has an independent effect on survival even among frail and old persons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Survival Rate