Physical Activity and Association Between Frailty and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality in Older Adults: Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2018 Nov;66(11):2097-2103. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15542. Epub 2018 Oct 16.


Objectives: To examine the separate and joint association between physical activity and frailty and long-term all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in older adults.

Design: Population-based prospective cohort study.

Setting: Cohort representative of the noninstitutionalized Spanish population.

Participants: Individuals aged 60 and older (N=3,896) in 2000-01.

Measurements: Participants reported their physical activity using a validated instrument, and frailty was ascertained using the Fatigue, low Resistance, limitation in Ambulation, Illness and weight Loss (FRAIL) scale. Those with 0 frailty criteria were considered to be robust, with 1 or 2 criteria to be prefrail, and with 3 of more criteria to be frail. Participants were followed until 2014 to identify all-cause and CVD deaths. Associations were summarized using hazard ratios (HRs) and Cox regression after adjustment for main covariates.

Results: During a median 14 years of follow-up, 1,801 total deaths occurred, 672 from CVD. Compared with being robust, the multivariate hazard ratio (95% confidence interval) for all-cause mortality was 1.29 (1.14-1.45) in prefrail individuals, and 2.16 (1.82-2.58) in frail individuals (p-trend <.001). Compared with being physically inactive, being physically active was associated with a statistically significant 18% (1-32%), 28% (16-39%) and 39% (17-55%) lower all-cause mortality among robust, prefrail, and frail individuals, respectively (all p <.001). Compared with participants who were robust and physically active, those who were frail and inactive showed the highest all-cause mortality 2.45 (95%CI: 1.95-3.06); however, the hazard ratio (95% confidence interval) for all-cause mortality in frail individuals who were physically active was comparable to that in pre-frail and inactive participants: 1.70 (1.32-2.19) and 1.56 (1.34-1.82), respectively. Mortality of prefrail active participants was similar to that of robust inactive participants. Results were similar for CVD mortality.

Conclusion: Physical activity might partly compensate for the greater mortality risk associated with frailty in old age. J Am Geriatr Soc 66:2097-2103, 2018.

Keywords: elderly; frailty; mortality; physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geriatric Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Health*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires