BACKGROUND: frailty syndrome is common amongst older people. Low physical activity is part of frailty, but long-term prospective studies investigating leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) during the life course as a predictor of frailty are still warranted. The aim of this study is to investigate whether earlier life LTPA predicts frailty in older age.
METHODS: the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) included older adults (aged 60-77 years) from the general population who were at increased risk of cognitive decline. Frailty was assessed for 1,137 participants at a baseline visit using a modified version of Fried's phenotype, including five criteria: weight loss, exhaustion, weakness, slowness and low physical activity. Self-reported data on earlier life LTPA were available from previous population-based studies (average follow-up time 13.6 years). A binomial logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the association between earlier life LTPA and pre-frailty/frailty in older age.
RESULTS: the prevalence of frailty and pre-frailty was 0.8% and 27.3%, respectively. In the analyses, pre-frail and frail groups were combined. People who had been physically very active (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.23-0.60) or moderately active (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.32-0.65) earlier in life had lower odds of becoming pre-frail/frail than individuals who had been sedentary.
CONCLUSIONS: frailty was rare in this relatively healthy study population, but almost a third of the participants were pre-frail. Earlier life LTPA was associated with lower levels of pre-frailty/frailty. The results highlight the importance of physical activity when aiming to promote healthy old age.
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