In a recent study, carried out by Dr. Louis Bherer, PhD (Psychology), Laboratory Director and Researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM), researchers have discovered that the benefits of exercise are positive for all seniors, including those who are considered frail. The findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology, said these advantages appeared after just three months and specifically included increased cognitive and physical abilities, as well as quality of life.

These findings are exceptional because increased life expectancy will add to the number of frail seniors in our population. Characteristics of frailness include decreased functional reserves in a person, which leads to adverse health effects and vulnerability to stressors. Frailty is related to more hospitalizations, psychological distress, risk of falls, and cognitive deterioration. To date, in seniors over the age of 85, 37% percent are considered to be frail, as well as 7% of seniors from 65 to 74 and 18% of those between 75 to 85.

Dr. Bherer commented:

“For the first time, frail senior citizens have participated in a study on exercise thanks to the collaboration of medical doctors at IUGM, who provided close medical supervision. My team was able to demonstrate that sedentary and frail senior citizens can benefit from major improvements not only in terms of physical function but also brain function, such as memory, and quality of life,”

The study included 83 participants between the ages of 61 and 89 years, a portion of who were considered frail. The control group of 40 participants followed no exercise program, while 43 participants took part in group exercises. The groups were evaluated for quality of life, cognitive health, and physical ability one week before the start of the program and again at the end.

Trained participants showed a significant improvement compared with those who did not participate in the training exercises. The improvements included physical ability (functionality and physical endurance), cognitive health (processing speed and working memory) and quality of life (social and family relationships and recreational activities). Benefits of exercise were seen to be the same among frail and non frail participants, suggesting a meaningful conclusion that it is never too late for exercise interventions.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald