A physical activity intervention to treat the frailty syndrome in older persons-results from the LIFE-P study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Feb;70(2):216-22. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu099. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


Background: The frailty syndrome is as a well-established condition of risk for disability. Aim of the study is to explore whether a physical activity (PA) intervention can reduce prevalence and severity of frailty in a community-dwelling elders at risk of disability.

Methods: Exploratory analyses from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders pilot, a randomized controlled trial enrolling 424 community-dwelling persons (mean age=76.8 years) with sedentary lifestyle and at risk of mobility disability. Participants were randomized to a 12-month PA intervention versus a successful aging education group. The frailty phenotype (ie, ≥3 of the following defining criteria: involuntary weight loss, exhaustion, sedentary behavior, slow gait speed, poor handgrip strength) was measured at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. Repeated measures generalized linear models were conducted.

Results: A significant (p = .01) difference in frailty prevalence was observed at 12 months in the PA intervention group (10.0%; 95% confidence interval = 6.5%, 15.1%), relative to the successful aging group (19.1%; 95% confidence interval = 13.9%,15.6%). Over follow-up, in comparison to successful aging participants, the mean number of frailty criteria in the PA group was notably reduced for younger subjects, blacks, participants with frailty, and those with multimorbidity. Among the frailty criteria, the sedentary behavior was the one most affected by the intervention.

Conclusions: Regular PA may reduce frailty, especially in individuals at higher risk of disability. Future studies should be aimed at testing the possible benefits produced by multidomain interventions on frailty.

Keywords: Clinical trials.; Frailty; Physical activity; Physical function; Successful aging.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black People
  • Comorbidity
  • Exercise*
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Gait
  • Hand Strength
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Single-Blind Method
  • United States
  • White People