Frailty assessment using a novel approach based on combined motor and cardiac functions: a pilot study

Nima Toosizadeh, Maryam Eskandari, Hossein Ehsani, Saman Parvaneh, Mehran Asghari, Nancy Sweitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Previous research showed association between frailty and an impaired autonomic nervous system; however, the direct effect of frailty on heart rate (HR) behavior during physical activity is unclear. The purpose of the current study was to determine the association between HR increase and decrease with frailty during a localized upper-extremity function (UEF) task to establish a multimodal frailty test. Methods: Older adults aged 65 or older were recruited and performed the UEF task of rapid elbow flexion for 20 s with the right arm. Wearable gyroscopes were used to measure forearm and upper-arm motion, and electrocardiography were recorded using leads on the left chest. Using this setup, HR dynamics were measured, including time to peak HR, recovery time, percentage increase in HR during UEF, and percentage decrease in HR during recovery after UEF. Results: Fifty-six eligible participants were recruited, including 12 non-frail (age = 76.92 ± 7.32 years), and 40 pre-frail (age = 80.53 ± 8.12 years), and four frail individuals (age = 88.25 ± 4.43 years). Analysis of variance models showed that the percentage increase in HR during UEF and percentage decrease in HR during recovery were both 47% smaller in pre-frail/frail older adults compared to non-frails (p < 0.01, effect size = 0.70 and 0.62 for increase and decrease percentages). Using logistic models with both UEF kinematics and HR parameters as independent variables, frailty was predicted with a sensitivity of 0.82 and specificity of 0.83. Conclusion: Current findings showed evidence of strong association between HR dynamics and frailty. It is suggested that combining kinematics and HR data in a multimodal model may provide a promising objective tool for frailty assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number199
JournalBMC geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Frailty
  • Heart rate variability
  • Kinematics
  • Older adults
  • Wearable sensor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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