Evidence Summary

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Physical exercise interventions may improve walking speed and physical functioning measures in frail older adults.

Gine-Garriga M, Roque-Figuls M, Coll-Planas L, et al.  Physical exercise interventions for improving performance-based measures of physical function in community-dwelling, frail older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014; 95(4): 753-769  

Review question

Do exercise interventions help frail older adults who live in the community perform regular daily tasks?


As people age they may become increasingly frail, which may result in feelings of weakness, exhaustion and difficulty performing routine tasks in their daily life. Frailty is common in older adults over 65 years. Frail older adults are at a high risk for falls, injury, disability and admission to the hospital. Exercise interventions may improve how frail older adults function in their daily life.

How the review was done

This is a review of 19 randomized controlled trials with 1588 participants that studied if exercise improved mobility, walking speed, muscle strength, balance and endurance in frail older adults. The types of exercise studied included Tai Chi, resistance training with weights, stretching or flexibility training, balance training with a computer, and exercise combined with whole body vibration,

What the researchers found

Exercise interventions modestly improved the speed at which frail older adults walked, and their performance on physical function tests. The exercise interventions did not consistently improve the older adults’ balance, endurance, or how well the older adults were able to perform regular daily tasks. Seven studies compared different types of exercise interventions, but no one type of exercise consistently improved the measures of physical functioning.  There was very little information available to show if the benefits of the exercise interventions continued after the intervention ended.


Exercise interventions may improve walking speed and physical functioning in frail older adults in the short-term. No one type of exercise appears to be optimal in comparison to others.


Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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