TUESDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Rates of physical frailty increase throughout adulthood, not just after age 65, a new study finds.

Researchers also found that relatively good levels of fitness at all ages were associated with a lower risk of death and reduced need for health care services.

Canadian researchers analyzed 12 years of data from nearly 15,000 people aged 15 to 102 to learn more about the impact of age on fitness and frailty. Most participants (7,183) reported fairly high fitness levels at the start of the study, while 1,019 reported being frail.

The relatively fit participants generally stayed healthy during the study period while those who were frail were most likely to die. As participants grew older, their frailty level increased.

The study is published April 26 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"We found that the prevalence of frailty increased exponentially with age throughout the adult life span and not just after age 65, where the sharpest inflection of the curve occurred," wrote Dr. Kenneth Rockwood of Dalhousie University and the Center for Health Care of the Elderly in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and colleagues in a journal news release. "At all ages, relatively fit people had a lower mortality and used fewer health care services."

"Our data suggest that (increasing frailty) is a fact of aging, not age, and that the antecedents of frailty in late life manifest at least by middle age," the researchers wrote.

Given the complex nature of frailty, a more integrated approach to managing frail patients is required, they suggested.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion outlines how to stay healthy as you age.