Here's why exercise is not a form of treatment for dementia

Maricruz Casares
May 17, 2018

Almost 47.5 million people worldwide have dementia and the view that exercise might slow cognitive decline has gained widespread popularity.

Washington D.C. [U.S.A.], May 17: Moderate to high-intensity exercise does not slow cognitive decline in people with dementia, a new research has claimed.

To try and resolve this uncertainty, a team of United Kingdom researchers made a decision 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.

For the latest study, researchers took 494 people in England who had been diagnosed with dementia, and assigned 329 of them to an exercise programme.

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.

Indeed, patients who participated in the exercise programme showed slightly worse scores than those who hadn't exercised. The exercise group were fitter, but had marginally higher Alzheimer's disease assessment scores compared with the rest.

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According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, moderate to high-intensity exercise does not slow cognitive (mental) impairment in older people with dementia.

The results may encourage the adoption of exergaming as a way to slow the effects of mild cognitive impairment which is sometimes a stage between normal brain aging and dementia. Other (secondary) outcomes included activities of daily living, number of falls, and quality of life.

Participants were assessed at six and 12 months after starting the programme.

According to a press statement, in the exercise group, the decline was steeper, "however, the average difference was small and clinical relevance was uncertain".

Commenting on the study, which was published in the BMJ, Rob Howard, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at University College London said: "Had this been instead an improvement in cognitive functioning with exercise we would all have been excited about finding something positive in the, so far, depressing fight against dementia".

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