A meta-analysis published in 2021 offers compelling evidence that physical activity interventions positively impact the health and well-being of frail and pre-frail older adults.
Frailty is a somewhat loosely defined condition, which complicates research into effective interventions. Generally, it describes a state of increased vulnerability that can accompany aging.
Today, we’ll dive into these complexities to better understand how to prevent frailty and the associated negative health outcomes of aging.
Defining Frailty And Pre-Frailty
Frailty is a clinically diagnosable state in which an older adult is at increased risk for poor health outcomes including falls, hospitalization, and mortality. Although frailty is clinically recognized, there's no universally accepted metric for its diagnosis.
In 2001, a group of researchers at the Center on Aging and Health at The John Hopkins Medical Institution proposed that to be considered frail a patient should meet three out of five diagnostic criteria: low grip strength, low energy, slowed walking speed, low physical activity, and/or unintentional weight loss.1
Pre-frailty denotes a state where one is at risk of developing frailty. An older adult who meets just one or two of the diagnostic criteria listed above may be considered pre-frail.
A peer-reviewed scientific article published in the Cork Open Research Archive in 2021 offered a consensus statement from 23 experts about pre-frailty. Those experts agreed that pre-frailty can be caused by physical, cognitive, nutritional, social, and socio-economic factors.2
They concurred that pre-frailty is both preventable and reversible, emphasizing the need for health professionals to monitor patients and recommend timely interventions.
Frailty is a state in which older adults are at increased risk for poor health outcomes including falls, hospitalization, and mortality. Diagnostic criteria include low energy, slowed walking speed, low physical activity, and/or unintentional weight loss. Pre-frailty is a state where one is at risk of developing frailty. Experts agree that pre-frailty is both preventable and reversible through timely interventions.
How To Prevent Or Reverse Frailty
A meta-analysis published in 2021 analyzed 26 studies that included 8,022 pre-frail and frail older adults. Each of the studies measured the impact of a physical activity intervention on the health outcomes of participants.3
The reviewers included studies that measured several types of physical activities, including muscle-strengthening, aerobics, mobilization and rehabilitation, and mixes of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.
The researchers noted that only a few studies used frailty as an outcome, and the inconsistent application of these methods rendered the study’s results inconclusive. In spite of that uncertainty, the study authors did observe positive impacts on the health outcomes of participants after physical activity interventions.
The researchers included the following in the conclusion of their article:
“Our review showed a significant benefit of physical activity interventions of various types on certain outcomes including mobility, ADLs, cognitive function, quality of life and frailty when compared to control groups in frail adults aged 65 years or more. The effect sizes ranged from small to large, with low to moderate certainty of evidence. When we looked at all physical activity interventions together, there was a large effect on frailty, a medium effect on quality of life, ADLs and mobility, and a small effect on cognitive function.”3
The key takeaway is that interventions involving physical activity can positively influence various health outcomes, including frailty.
A meta-analysis of 26 studies found that physical activities had a positive impact on a variety of health outcomes among older frail and prefrail study participants.
Frailty, Pre-Frailty, And Bone Health
Frailty has a direct relationship to bone health. Frailty outcomes, such as an increased risk of falls, diminished physical function, and sarcopenia, pose threats to bone health. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass. It impairs the body’s ability to build new bone since bone adds mass in response to the stress applied by muscle.
Pre-frailty potentially carries the same risks. Fortunately, prevention and reversal is possible, according to the 2021 consensus statement on pre-frailty. Those experts stated:
“Pre-frailty might be reversed or attenuated by targeted interventions including physical activity, nutritional interventions, healthy lifestyle and social participation, tailored to the individual.”2
Those intervention strategies will sound familiar to Savers, as they are the pillars of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. The overlap reinforces confidence in the Save Institute, and illustrates the links between frailty, pre-frailty, and bone health.
It’s also great news for those already using the ORP to pursue healthier bones– the same interventions the ORP uses to build strong bones will help prevent or reverse the components of frailty and pre-frailty.
The outcomes of frailty threaten bone health, including the risk of falls, reduced physical function, and muscle loss (sarcopenia). Pre-frailty is a predictor of the same risks, however, experts agree that it can be reversed and prevented through interventions including physical activity, nutrition, and lifestyle changes. These are the primary strategies employed by the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
What This Means To You
Regular physical activity is essential both for preventing frailty and for building strong and healthy bones.
The Save Institute responded to the need for accessible, customizable, easy-to-stick-with exercise programs by creating SaveTrainer. SaveTrainer is a digital platform for building your ideal set of physical activities guided by professional trainers and tailored to your exact needs and abilities.
Whether you’re interested in yoga flows, strength training, guided meditations, aerobic workouts, or a combination of these,– SaveTrainer offers all this and more. Since it’s all online, it’s available to you anywhere, anytime, without limitation.
You have the power to include healthy activity habits that will keep your body, mind, and bones strong and long-lasting. Embrace your power, and live your life to the fullest.