Do home-based exercise interventions improve outcomes for frail older people? Findings from a systematic review

Rev Clin Gerontol. 2012 Feb;22(1):68-78. doi: 10.1017/S0959259811000165. Epub 2012 Aug 24.


Background: Frailty is common in older age, and is associated with important adverse health outcomes including increased risk of disability and long-term care admission.

Objectives: To evaluate whether home-based exercise interventions improve outcomes for frail older people.

Data sources: We searched systematically for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster RCTs, with literature searching to February 2010.

Study selection: All trials that evaluated home-based exercise interventions for frail older people were eligible. Primary outcomes were mobility, quality of life and daily living activities. Secondary outcomes included long-term care admission and hospitalisation.

Results: Six RCTs involving 987 participants met the inclusion criteria. Four trials were considered of high quality. One high quality trial reported improved disability in those with moderate but not severe frailty. Meta-analysis of long-term care admission rates identified a trend towards reduced risk. Inconsistent effects on other primary and secondary outcomes were reported in the other studies.

Conclusions: There is preliminary evidence that home-based exercise interventions may improve disability in older people with moderate, but not severe, frailty. There is considerable uncertainty regarding effects on important outcomes including quality of life and long-term care admission. Home-based exercises are a potentially simple, safe and widely applicable intervention to prevent dependency decline for frail older people.

Keywords: Frailty; community; exercise; home-based; systematic review.