We report on the correlation between the proportion of people who fulfil the recommended amount of aerobic physical activity in the general population and the prevalence of frailty or prefrailty in the population ≥65 years in 11 European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden). In a subgroup analysis, it was assessed if people who do aerobic physical activity also do strength training.
Aggregated physical activity data were taken from the European Health Interview Survey with the minimum effective sample size of 90,036 participants. Data on frailty status were taken from the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) study (N = 24,590). For the subgroup analysis, data of the Austrian Health Interview Survey (ATHIS) (N = 15,770) were included.
The results indicate a significant negative correlation between the proportion of people fulfilling the minimal aerobic physical activity recommendations (≥150 min/week) and the proportion of prefrail or frail people (R = −0.745; p = 0.008). The correlation between the optimal aerobic physical activity recommendations (≥300 min/week) and the proportion of prefrail or frail individuals was R = −0.691 (p = 0.019). In both data sets a north-south gradient was seen. Austrian data showed that 52.0% of the participants fulfilled the minimal aerobic physical activity recommendations and conducted strength training, whereas 18.4% did not fulfil the aerobic recommendations but performed strength training (p < 0.001).
By taking into account that the number of people ≥65 years will increase in the future these results may be relevant in planning public health interventions for the whole population with the goal of reducing frailty in the elderly.