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Physical Exercise Is Extremely Beneficial to Older Adult Residents in Long-Term Care

It is well known that physical exercise is beneficial for the body, no matter one’s age.  Even an editorial published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association deemed exercise “the ultimate medicine.”  Now, research has shown even more evidence that exercise is crucial for the human body, especially in older ages, when adults become more vulnerable to frailty and sarcopenia.

Older adults living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are especially prone to becoming frail and sarcopenic.  Dependency in activities of daily living, morbidity is various aspects, and polypharmacy are prevalent within this complex patient population. According to a recent study on physical activity and exercise for elderly patients living in long-term care facilities, overall physical activity has been proven to prevent both the incidence of functional disability in regards to activities of daily living and advancement of the disability severity among the patient population.

Experts dedicated to long-term care facility research and clinical care, with the endorsement of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) and the World Health Organization, have already acknowledged the necessity of exercise for the quality of care provided in the long-term care facility setting.  Substantial scientific evidence from recent studies have proven that physical exercise training (such as a subset of physical activity that is organized, measured, repetitive, and meaningful, being generally utilized to enhance or maintain physical and functional abilities) has been shown to promote beneficial effects on the ability to carry out activities of daily living in nursing home and assisted living facility residents.

Physical exercise training produces undoubtable benefits due to the fact that it can enhance various clinical outcomes that are commonly present in long-term care facility residents (such as falls, cardiovascular illnesses, and mood disorders), without increasing the risk of negative health events.

A study performed by Crocker et al. found that residents in long-term care facilities who engaged in exercise had a greater ability to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, than those who did not exercise. Another study executed by Forbes et al found that even patients with dementia who engaged in exercise showed better activities of daily living performance than controls. Other studies that analyzed the effect of exercise on depressed residents found that exercise had a positive effect on depressive symptoms. For example, exercise significantly decreased abnormal motor behavior and showed positive results for decreasing feelings of apathy, eating disorders, and agitation.

In regards to falls and fractures among long-term care facility residents, studies have shown that multicomponent exercise (meaning, a combination of two exercise forms or more among the following: balance and functional training, flexibility, strength, general physical activity, endurance, or others) has shown to decrease both the prevalence of falls and the risk of falling.  Researchers also found that among older adults living in these facilities with physical frailty, those who participated in exercise decreased their rate of falls compared with those who did not exercise.

It is the responsibility of the nursing home, such as those in Fresno and Fowler, California, to provide appropriate exercise programs that aim to promote or maintain physical function and encourage older adult residents to engage in regular physical activity.