Introduction: Low grip work and high feelings of self-perceived fatigue could be an early characteristic of decline in reserve capacity, which comes to full expression as physical frailty in a later stage. When grip work and self-perceived fatigue can be identified as characteristics differentiating between robustness and pre-frailty it might allow to identify pre-frailty earlier. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate whether the combination of grip work and self-perceived fatigue is related to pre-frailty in well-functioning older adults aged 80 and over. Methods: Four-hundred and five community-dwelling older adults aged 80 and over (214 robust and 191 pre-frail) were assessed for muscle endurance (grip Work corrected for body weight (GW_bw)), self-perceived fatigue (MFI-20) and frailty state (Fried Frailty Index, FFI). A Capacity to Perceived Vitality ratio (CPV) was calculated by dividing GW_bw by the MFI-20 scores. ANCOVA analysis (corrected for age and gender) was used to compare robust and pre-frail older adults, and binary logistic regressions were applied to analyze the relationship between CPV and pre-frailty status. Results: Pre-frail older adults who scored negative on the exhaustion item of the FFI still showed significantly lower GW (p < 0.001), CPV ratios (p < 0.001) and higher self-perceived fatigue (p < 0.05) compared to the robust ones. The likelihood for pre-frailty related significantly to higher age, being men and lower CPV ratios. In women, every unit increase in CPV ratio decreased the likelihood for pre-frailty by 78% (OR 0.22; 95% CI: 0.11–0.44), for men this effect was less strong (34%, OR 0.66; 95% CI: 0.47–0.93). Conclusions: Pre-frail community-dwelling persons aged 80 years and over without clinical signs of exhaustion on the FFI still experience significantly higher fatigue levels (lower Grip Work, higher self-perceived fatigue and lower CPV levels) compared to robust ones. CPV ratio could therefore be a good tool to identify subclinical fatigue in the context of physical (pre-)frailty.
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- Muscle endurance