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Do home-based exercise interventions improve outcomes for frail older people? Findings from a systematic review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2011

Andrew P Clegg*
Academic Unit of Elderly Care & Rehabilitation, University of Leeds, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Sally E Barber
Academic Unit of Elderly Care & Rehabilitation, University of Leeds, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK
John B Young
Academic Unit of Elderly Care & Rehabilitation, University of Leeds, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Anne Forster
Academic Unit of Elderly Care & Rehabilitation, University of Leeds, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Steve J Iliffe
Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, UK
Address for correspondence: Dr Andrew Clegg, Academic Unit of Elderly Care & Rehabilitation, Bradford Institute for Health Research, Temple Bank House, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Duckworth Lane, Bradford BD9 6RJ, UK. Email:


Frailty is common in older age, and is associated with important adverse health outcomes, including increased risk of disability and long-term care admission.

This study aims to evaluate whether home-based exercise interventions improve outcomes for frail older people.

We searched systematically for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster RCTs, with literature searching to February 2010.

All trials that evaluated home-based exercise interventions for frail older people were eligible. Primary outcomes were mobility, quality of life and daily living activities. Secondary outcomes included long-term care admission and hospitalization.

Six RCTs involving 987 participants met the inclusion criteria. Four trials were considered of high quality. One high-quality trial reported improved disability in those with moderate but not severe frailty. Meta-analysis of long-term care admission rates identified a trend towards reduced risk. Inconsistent effects on other primary and secondary outcomes were reported in the other studies.

There is preliminary evidence that home-based exercise interventions may improve disability in older people with moderate, but not severe, frailty. There is considerable uncertainty regarding effects on important outcomes including quality of life and long-term care admission. Home-based exercises are a potentially simple, safe and widely applicable intervention to prevent dependency decline for frail older people.

Intermediate care & rehabilitation
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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