Exercise Is the Best Medicine for Frailty

There’s new medical evidence that physical activity, whether it’s walking, or swimming, or any form of exercise, is the best medicine to treat frailty in older adults. One of the authors of a study, presented at the 2019 International Conference on Frailty and Sarcopenia in Miami, urges healthcare providers to prescribe exercise to their patients who are significantly slowing down physically as they age.

Frailty is diagnosed in older patients when they exhibit three of five medical criteria:

  1. Low grip strength
  2. Low energy
  3. Slowed walking speed
  4. Low physical activity
  5. Unintentional weight loss

In an interview with StrongPath at the conference, Dr. Ahmed Negm, MD, MSc, PhD, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, said patients in his study showed overall improvements in their strength. “They’re improving knee strength, grip strength. They’re improving walking distance and balance,” explained the medical researcher.

Dr. Negm said “exercise is the best medicine” for frailty, especially when combined with good nutrition, and he said that doctors should be at the forefront of getting their patients to get more physical to fight the loss of strength. “Most older adults don’t have the culture of exercising every day or having exercise as their priority. It should be recommended by healthcare providers because we know that if the healthcare provider advises or prescribes exercise for patient, they will be likely to follow the exercise protocol,” according to the doctor.

Dr. Negm acknowledged that there could be barriers to working out for some older patients. “Sometimes older [patients] say they don’t have time. They don’t have the equipment. Finances is a big barrier, so they don’t have the money to actually do it.” Dr. Negm said that having the government intervene financially could lead to a decrease in healthcare spending in the long term. “I think if it’s subsidized or if it’s supported by a body, like a government or a city, that would be very helpful in terms of improving their health in general.”

Watch Dr. Negm’s complete interview here.

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