Exercise may not be beneficial to people with dementia

Researchers have found through a study that moderate to high intensity exercise doesn’t really help dementia patients as findings indicate that despite exercising regularly, the cognitive (mental) impairment in older people with dementia didn’t slow down.

According to the study published in The BMJ, from the fitness perspective an exercise program may be suggested, but it doesn’t cater to any treatment aspect for the disease.

Nearly 47.5 million people across the globe suffer from dementia and over the last few years there has been an emerging trend that exercise might slow cognitive decline. However, studies have shown that might not be the case and so to try and resolve this uncertainty, a team of UK researchers decided to estimate the effect of a moderate to high intensity aerobic and strength exercise training programme on cognitive impairment and other outcomes in people with dementia.

The trial involved 494 people with mild to moderate dementia (average age 77 years) living in the community across 15 regions of England. The programme consisted of 60-90 minute group sessions in a gym twice a week for four months, plus home exercises for one additional hour each week with ongoing support.

The main (primary) outcome was an Alzheimer’s disease assessment score (ADAS-cog) at 12 months. Other (secondary) outcomes included activities of daily living, number of falls, and quality of life. Compliance with exercise was good and participants were assessed again at six and 12 months.

After taking account of potentially influential factors, the researchers found that cognitive impairment declined over the 12-month follow-up in both groups.

The exercise group showed improved physical fitness in the short term, but higher ADAS-cog scores at 12 months (25.2 v 23.8) compared with the usual care group, indicating worse cognitive impairment. However, the average difference was small and clinical relevance was uncertain.

No differences were found in secondary outcomes, including number of falls and quality of life, or after further analyses to test the strength of the results.

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