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Aging in balance : physical exercise and nutrient dense foods for the vulnerable elderly

Author: Chin A Paw, M.
Place: Wageningen
Institution: TNO Preventie en Gezondheid
Identifier: 87174
ISBN: 90-5808-125-7
Keywords: Biology · Medicine · Geneeskunde · Physiology · Fysiologie · Health · Gezondheid · Dietetics · Voedingsleer


The main goal of prevention and health care for elderly people is optimizing 'quality of life'. Frail older persons have limited reserves and are therefore at an increased risk of a decline in health, which may lead to dependency and disability. This thesis focuses on the health-related effects of physical exercise and nutrient dense foods among non-institutionalized frail older people. First, criteria for identification of frailty were investigated using prospective cohort data. It was concluded that physical inactivity in combination with weight loss seems a practical and inexpensive screening criterion to identify functionally vulnerable persons among non-institutionalized elderly. Second, the results of a 17-weeks randomized controlled trial on a specific exercise and nutritional program in 217 frail, independently-living elderly (aged 67-96) are presented.The exercise program proved of benefit for functional status and immune response. Performance on 7 functional tests had significantly improved (+8%) in trained compared to non-trained subjects (-8%). The beneficial effect on the sum score of 7 fitness tests was also significant but smaller. Cellular immune response was measured by the delayed-type hypersensitivity skin test response against 7 recall antigens. The number of positive responses declined in non-exercising subjects (-26%) compared to an unchanged responsiveness among exercising subjects. Effects on self-rated disabilities, psychological well-being and self-rated health could not be demonstrated. Seventeen weeks of consumption of micronutrient enriched foods at physiological doses (25-100% of the RDA) did not affect functional status, cellular immune response or psychological well-being.In conclusion, exercise programs can be developed which are effective in preventing, slowing down or reversing the age-related decline in physical functioning and cellular immune response. Moreover, subjects highly appreciated the exercise program and the majority favored continuing program participation.