Exercise program and Mediterranean diet can benefit hospitalized older people

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A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging reveals that hospitalized elderly people who don’t adhere to a Mediterranean diet could significantly benefit from a physical exercise program to prevent hospitalization-associated disability.

This disability includes a loss of skills in daily-life activities and is a common issue among older adults during hospital stays.

Led by Mireia Urpi-Sarda from the University of Barcelona and José Antonio Serra-Rexach from the Gregorio Marañón Health Research Institute, the study emphasizes the importance of assessing patients’ dietary patterns upon hospital admission.

This approach could lead to more personalized strategies to prevent the loss of functional abilities in the elderly.

Researchers observed that hospitalized older adults who follow a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet tend to improve overall when provided with exercise and health education guidelines.

Interestingly, the study found that patients in poorer physical condition showed more significant improvements with a physical exercise program.


The study’s findings are based on the AGECAR-PLUS project, a clinical study involving 260 patients aged 75 and older at the Gregorio Marañón University Hospital.

Of these, 109 volunteers were evaluated for their adherence to the Mediterranean diet, urinary polyphenol levels, functional status, and other health parameters at admission and discharge.

José Antonio Serra-Rexach noted that patients who underwent the physical exercise and health education intervention during hospitalization showed a marked increase in functional status at discharge.

This improvement was significant compared to their condition upon admission and compared to patients who did not receive the intervention.

Dietary Patterns and Physical Deterioration

Mireia Urpi-Sarda pointed out that a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is linked to a lower risk of physical deterioration in elderly people.

The study also explored the relationship between these dietary patterns and the effectiveness of exercise interventions in preventing functional decline during hospitalization.

Alba Tor-Roca, a researcher involved in the study, highlighted that individuals with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet showed a greater response to the exercise intervention, implying that following this diet may indicate a better response to exercise programs among older patients.

Conclusion and Future Directions

The study suggests that incorporating dietary assessments into the care plan of hospitalized elderly patients can help in designing targeted interventions to prevent functional decline.

The results advocate for further research on the interaction between diet, exercise, and functional abilities in the elderly, particularly during hospital stays.

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The research findings can be found in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.

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