BACKGROUND: Physical activity may be both a risk and protective factor for falls and fall-related fractures. Despite its positive effects on muscle and bone health, physical activity also increases exposure to situations where falls and fractures occur. This paradox could possibly be explained by frailty status. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the associations between physical activity and both falls and fractures, and to determine whether frailty modifies the association of physical activity with falls, and fractures.
METHODS: Data of 311 community-dwelling participants aged 75 years or older from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, who participated in a three-year longitudinal study with five nine-monthly measurements between 2015/2016 and 2018/2019. Their mean age was 81.1 (SD 4.8) years and frailty was present in 30.9% of the participants. Physical activity in minutes per day was objectively assessed with an inertial sensor (Actigraph) for seven consecutive days. Falls and fractures were assessed every nine months using self-report during an interview over a follow-up period of three years. Frailty was determined at baseline using the frailty index. Associations were estimated using longitudinal logistic regression analyses based on generalized estimating equations.
RESULTS: No association between physical activity and falls was found (OR = 1.00, 95% CI: 0.99-1.00). Fall risk was higher in frail compared to non-frail adults (OR = 2.21, 95% CI: 1.33-3.68), but no effect modification was seen of frailty on the association between physical activity and falls. Also no relation between physical activity and fractures was found (OR = 1.00, 95% CI: 0.99-1.01). Fracture risk was higher in frail compared to non-frail adults (OR = 2.81, 95% CI: 1.02-7.75), but also no effect modification of frailty was present in the association between physical activity and fractures.
CONCLUSIONS: No association between physical activity and neither falls nor fractures was found, and frailty appeared not to be an effect modifier. However, frailty was a risk factor for falls and fractures in this population of older adults. Our findings suggest that physical activity can be safely recommended in non-frail and frail populations for general health benefits, without increasing the risk of falls.