Exercise is known to contribute to healthy aging through physical benefits and overall quality of life, and appears increasingly likely to contribute to continued cognitive well-being. Most of the research evidence on the benefits of physical activity, however, is based on studies of healthy individuals without conditions that can make exercise more difficult. A recent study on the cognitive and quality-of-life benefits of exercise compared the effects of exercise on both physically healthy and frail older adults, finding that frail individuals can experience the same positive effects of exercise.
The study included 83 participants between the ages of 61 and 89. Individuals with dementia or who would be put at high risk by physical exertion were excluded. Thirty-four participants were designated as “frail” based on their scores on validated frailty scales. Participants, both frail and non-frail, were assigned to a control group or to a training group. Participants in the training group participated in 12 weeks of exercise, which consisted of one-hour sessions three days per week. The exercise sessions were individualized so that each participant’s training was gradually more demanding, based on their own performance. The control group was instructed to maintain a typical level of activity throughout the 12 weeks.
Participants in the training group experienced significant improvement in their physical endurance and capacity, their cognitive performance, and their overall quality of life. Both frail and non-frail participants experienced similar benefits.
Langlois F, Vu TTM, Chassé K, et al. Benefits of physical exercise training on cognition and quality of life in frail older adults. Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (2012); epub ahead of print; DOI:10.1093/geronb/gbs069.