Diet, exercise and stimulating activities are keys to reversing physical frailty, a recent study has found.

The four-year study included 250 people from Singapore who were aged 65 or more years and already had shown signs of frailty. They were divided into five groups and exposed to various interventions.

“The interventions were effective in reversing frailty,” said Ng Tze Pin, M.D., associate professor from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and leader of the research team. “They improved physical strength and gait speed, reduced depressive symptoms and improved cognitive function.”

Physical frailty is strongly associated with cognitive impairment, dementia and adverse health outcomes such as disability, hospitalization and mortality, the researchers noted.

Older adults who are physically frail are two to 10 times more likely to become functionally disabled, hospitalized or die earlier, they said. If they are cognitively impaired in addition to being physically frail, then they are 20 times more likely to become functionally disabled, hospitalized or die earlier.

“The important message from our studies is that frailty is not an inevitable part of aging,” Pin said. “There is much that older people can do for themselves to avoid becoming frail and disabled, so it is vital that they pay attention to good-quality diet and nutrition, engage in physical exercise and participate in socially and cognitively stimulating activities.”

In addition to improving quality of life for older adults, he added, these steps will reduce the long-term burden of care.

Watch Dr. Pin discuss the research here: