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What Does Frailty Mean?

In this article, Luke Scriven, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Seniors Specialist, explores the realities of frailty in older adults. Frailty is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of different symptoms and carries an increased risk for poor health outcomes. Some of the most common symptoms of frailty include:

  • negative energy balance,

  • age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia),

  • diminished strength/power,

  • fatigue,

  • reduced walking speed/capacity, and

  • reduced tolerance to physical exertion.

Over time the outcomes associated with these symptoms include falls, disability, hospitalisation, and mortality. We will explore below how to prevent these outcomes and reduce your risk of frailty-related symptoms.

Frail person using Support Bar On Stairs

Who Is Susceptible To Becoming Frail?

Older adults (>65 yrs) are the main population who are affected by frailty. Statistics show that over 20% of those over 65 are considered frail, and another 48% are pre-frail, with women being affected at a much greater rate than men. Although frailty tends to manifest at an older age, research shows that this may be a process that starts as early as in someone’s 20s.

Without consistent physical activity, people over the age of 25 experience the following:

  • cardiovascular fitness (VO2 Max) decreases at a rate of 10% per decade

  • muscle mass decreases at about 8% per decade

  • muscle strength and power reduce at an even faster rate.

Frailty Quiz - Test How Frail You Are

Perform the following questionnaire to see if you are at risk.

What Can Be Done To Prevent Frailty?

Participating in regular physical activity will make a person's body more resilient and robust. Activity can include resistance, aerobic, functional, or balance-based exercises. Ideally a combination of different types of exercise will provide optimum benefits.

Performing some kind of resistance-based exercise 2-3 times per week is an effective way of preserving muscle and bone health and slowing the effects of age-related muscle mass and strength losses.

Performing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise is a great way to preserve cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as cognitive function. This includes brisk walking, swimming, cycling etc.

Performing regular balance, or functional-type exercises are also beneficial when it comes to reducing risk of falls, as well as improving gait.

Senior exercise class of 4 frail women using resistance bands for falls prevention

Can Frailty Be Improved?

If you are already frail don't despair. Although starting early is key, it’s never too late to start exercising to improve your strength and sturdiness. Frailty, particularly in the earlier stages, is almost entirely reversible. No matter your age, exercise can still elicit positive effects on muscle mass, strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, and balance.

If you, or a loved one, are experiencing frailty we strongly recommend making an appointment with an accredited exercise physiologist in your area. Exercise physiologists are specially trained to understand the issues associated with frailty and ageing.

Full Circle Wellness has a team of exercise physiologists who specialise in seniors care. We have helped hundreds of clients reduce their risk of falls and improved their quality of life with a personalised exercise plan. If you would like more information please contact our friendly team on 07 5456 1599.

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