Background: It is unclear if physical activity (PA) can prevent or reverse frailty. We examined different doses and types of PA and their association with the onset and severity of frailty.
Methods: Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study participants (N = 2,964) were followed for 5 years, with frailty defined as a gait speed of less than 0.60 m/s and/or inability to rise from a chair without using one's arms. Individuals with one impairment were considered moderately frail and those with both severely frail. We examined PA doses of volume and intensity, activity types (eg, lifestyle vs exercise activities), and their associations with incident frailty and transition to severe frailty in those who became frail.
Results: Adjusted models indicated that sedentary individuals had significantly increased odds of developing frailty compared with the exercise active group (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.45; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.04-2.01), whereas the lifestyle active did not. Number of diagnoses was the strongest predictor of incident frailty. In those who became frail during follow-up (n = 410), there was evidence that the sedentary (adjusted OR = 2.80; 95% CI: 0.98-8.02) and lifestyle active (adjusted OR = 2.81; 95% CI: 1.22-6.43) groups were more likely to have worsening frailty over time.
Conclusions: Despite the strong relationship seen between comorbid conditions and onset of frailty, this observational study suggests that participation in self-selected exercise activities is independently associated with delaying the onset and the progression of frailty. Regular exercise should be further examined as a potential factor in frailty prevention for older adults.