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Frail and Elderly Can Exercise, Sure to Reap Physical and Cognitive Benefits

Update Date: Sep 07, 2012 08:56 AM EDT

It is well known that the benefits of exercising are not limited to attaining a good body shape, but vital for a smooth and healthy functioning of organs. It is as important for elderly people, as it is for youngsters.

A new study by Dr. Louis Bherer, PhD (Psychology), Laboratory Director and Researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM) claims that there is no age limit at which one should start or stop exercising. 

The research shows that even those seniors, who are considered weak, can exercise and reap physical and cognitive benefits out of it. According to the study, they can improve their quality of life after just three months of exercising.

With the life expectancy on the rise, there is also an increase in the number of frail people, and thus, this discovery is very important. 

Frailness in geriatrics is defined as decreased functionality, increased vulnerability to stressors, risk of adverse health, higher risk of falls, hospitalizations, cognitive decline and psychological distress in people. 

According to statistics, 7 percent of seniors aged between 65 and 74, 18 percent of those aged between 75 and 84, and 37 percent of seniors over the age of 85 are considered frail. 

"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," stated Bherer. 

"We hope to adapt the exercise program used in the study and make it available to the public through the seniors' health promotion centre that the IUGM is developing. We believe that by transferring our research findings to the public, we will help both healthy and frail senior citizens stay at home longer," concluded the researcher. 

For the study, 43 frail participants between the ages of 61 and 89 years were asked to do exercises in groups, thrice a week for 12 weeks. While another 40 participants, of the control group (who weren't frail), did not exercise. 

The researchers had evaluated all participants one week before starting the program for physical capacity, quality of life and cognitive health. They were also evaluated again after the program got over.

The findings revealed that when compared to the control group, the participants of the exercise regime had significantly improved physical capacity, cognitive performance and quality of life.

Most importantly, it was found that the benefits were same frail and non-frail participants. This suggests that it's never too late to engage in exercise intervention programs, Medical Xpress reported. 

The findings were published online on the Web site of the Journals of Gerontology.

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