Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Physical activity could lower the high rate of death associated with frailty in older people, according to a study conducted in Spain.
The findings, which were published this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, confirm advice by geriatrics experts that physical activity helps prevent older people from developing the dangers of becoming frail: poor health, falls, disability and death.
"Physical activity might partly compensate for the greater mortality risk associated with frailty in old age," the researchers concluded.
Physical activity doesn't need to be strenuous, and can include walking. In previous research, physical activity has been shown to improve strength, balance, agility, walking speed and muscle mass.
The researchers analyzed information from 3,896 participants 60 years and older in Madrid in 2000-01. Information by the Autonomous University of Madrid was collected at the participants' homes, including personal interviews and physical examinations by trained personnel.
"This is the first study to examine the effect of physical activity on all‐cause and cardio vascular disease mortality in prefrail and frail older adults, but our results are in line with those from previous studies on the role of physical activity in modulating the excess mortality associated with frailty‐related criteria, such as fatigue, muscle weakness, gait speed, functional disability, and multimorbidity," the researchers wrote.
Frailty was determined with the FRAIL scale that measures fatigue, low resistance, limitation in ambulation, illness and weight loss. They found 12 percent reported fatigue, 7 percent low resistance such as climbing stairs, 4 percent had limitation in the ability to walk several hundred yards, 2 percent were sick and 2 percent experienced weight loss.
Any of the five components of the FRAIL scale was linked to a higher risk of death from any cause. Pre-frail and frail people had a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than robust participants.
Broken down by frailty levels, 52 percent were in good health, 4 percent were pre-frail and 6 percent were frail.
During 14 years of followup, 1,801 participants -- 46 percent -- died, including 672 due to cardiovascular disease.
Deaths from cardiovascular disease among people physically active but also frail were similar to levels for pre-frail and inactive people.
"It's never too late to become active," the American Geriatrics Society said in a blog post. "Before starting on a new exercise program, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it's safe for you to do so. For the vast majority of people, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks."