Exercise programs for people with dementia
Dementia is a serious loss of global cognitive ability, beyond what might be expected from normal aging, and is most commonly diagnosed among people over 65. It is becoming increasingly common as the population ages worldwide, and the number of people suffering with dementia is expected to rise dramatically. This will not only affect the quality of life of people with dementia but also increase the burden on family caregivers, community care, and residential care services.
There are several potential mechanisms that link exercise programs to cognitive function, including improved vascular function, which are associated in the maintenance of cerebral perfusion - i.e. balance between the supply and demand of nutrients to the brain. As a result, exercise is one lifestyle factor that has been identified as a potential means of reducing or delaying progression of the symptoms of dementia.
The Cochrane Collaboration has recently published a review on the benefits of exercise programs for older people with dementia.
Sixteen trials with 937 participants met the inclusion criteria.
The included trials were highly heterogeneous in terms of subtype and severity of participants' dementia, and type, duration and frequency of exercise. Only two trials included participants living at home.
The findings suggested that exercise programs might have a significant impact on improving cognitive functioning and performing ADL's,
However, only one trial was included in the analyses of the effect of exercise on challenging behaviours and caregiver burden, and no analyses were completed for the following outcomes: mortality, caregiver quality of life, caregiver mortality and use of healthcare services.
There is promising evidence that exercise programs can have a significant impact in improving ability to perform ADLs and possibly in improving cognition in people with dementia, although some caution is advised in interpreting these findings. The programs revealed no significant effect on challenging behaviours or depression.
> From: Forbes et al., Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013 (2014) . All rights reserved to Cochrane Collaboration. Click here for the Pubmed summary.