Exercise Frequency, Health Risk Factors, and Diseases of the Elderly

  • Wolfgang Kemmler
    Corresponding author Wolfgang Kemmler, PhD, Institute of Medical Physics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Henkestrasse 91, 91052 Erlangen, Germany.
    Institute of Medical Physics, University of Erlangen-Nurnberg (Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), Erlangen, Germany
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  • Simon von Stengel
    Institute of Medical Physics, University of Erlangen-Nurnberg (Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), Erlangen, Germany
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      To determine the effect of exercise frequency on various diseases and risk factors of the elderly.


      Retrospective analysis of a randomized controlled 18-month exercise trial.


      University ambulatory group setting.


      Community-dwelling women aged ≥65 years (N=162) in the area of Northern Bavaria.


      Mixed, intense aerobic, resistance, and balance protocol for 18 months. Subjects were retrospectively subdivided into 2 groups according to their effective attendance over 18 months (>1–<2 vs ≥2–4 sessions/wk).

      Main Outcome Measures

      Bone mineral density (BMD), lean body mass, appendicular skeletal muscle mass by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, Framingham study-based 10-year coronary heart disease (CHD) risk, and number of falls by calendar method.


      Significant differences between the low-frequency exercise group (LF-EG) and the high-frequency exercise group (HF-EG) were observed for lumbar spine BMD (HF-EG, 2.4%±2.8% vs LF-EG, 0.3%±2.2%; P<.001) and proximal femur BMD (HF-EG, 2.4%±2.8% vs LF-EG, −0.5%±1.6%; P=.014), lean body mass (1.6%±3.4% vs 0.3%±2.6%, P=.053), and appendicular skeletal muscle mass (0.9%±4.5% vs −1.3%±3.2%, P=.011). No differences between both exercise groups were observed for 10-year CHD risk (−1.94%±4.14% vs −2.00%±3.13%; P=.943) and number of falls (0.95±1.36 vs 1.03±1.21 falls/person). Comparing the LF-EG with the less active control group (n=47), only nonsignificant effects for fall number (P=.065) and 10-year CHD risk (P=.178) were evaluated.


      Although this result might not be generalizable across all exercise types and cohorts, it indicates that an overall exercise frequency of at least 2 sessions/wk may be crucial for impacting bone and muscle mass of elderly subjects.


      List of abbreviations:

      ASMM (appendicular skeletal muscle mass), BMD (bone mineral density), CHD (coronary heart disease), DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), EG (exercise group), HF-EG (high-frequency exercise group), LBM (lean body mass), LF-EG (low-frequency exercise group), LS (lumbar spine), SEFIP (Senior Fitness and Prevention (study)), tHip (total Hip), WCG (wellness control group)
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