Lack of exercise is harmful to health at all ages, and we live in a sedentary era, coddled by our machineries of transport and convenience. A perhaps surprisingly large degree of the decline into frailty is caused by the lack of exercise that sets in for many adults, and particularly lack are the forms of resistance training that builds strength. Thus there are plenty of studies like the one noted here that demonstrate benefits in elderly individuals who take up a structured program of exercise: most older people do not exercise as much as they can and should, and the consequence of that is a lower quality of life and higher mortality rate.
During ageing, regular exercise may reverse age-related physical deterioration and, at the same time, frailty, a very common syndrome among the elderly and which entails a higher risk of falls, hospital admissions, dependence and even death. This syndrome is more widespread among people living in residential care homes. In order to improve the life quality of this group, researchers designed a programme of physical exercise adapted to the capabilities of each individual. Strength, balance and stamina are worked on. The programme is run progressively and the intensities are increased as the capabilities of the people, for whom the adaptations of the body are greater, increase.
The effectiveness of the programme was analysed in a sample of 112 participants from 10 centres for the elderly. They were randomly divided into two groups: the control group that continued with its usual activities and care, and the experimental group that did two 45-minute sessions of physical exercise per week designed to improve strength and balance. The time they spent walking was gradually increased until they reached at least 20 minutes a day.
After three months, the study showed a significant improvement in most of the physical variables, such as strength, walking speed, and balance in the people who were doing physical exercise. By contrast, the people in the "control" group saw a reduction in their physical capabilities. The results obtained in the SPPB (Short Physical Performance Battery) were particularly significant. These tests are used to measure the degree of frailty and may predict the risk of falls, hospital admittances, dependence or death. Doing physical exercise generated a two-point increase in the SPPB while the result for the control group fell by one point. "A difference of a single point on this scale is already regarded as significant; 3 points are a clinically highly significant difference."