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Seniors with dementia benefit from exercise

December 10, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Seniors with dementia can experience improved cognition and ability to perform activities of daily living when they exercise, according to a new Cochrane Library review.

The authors examined data from 16 studies. Eight of them, involving 329 people, found that exercise could improve cognitive functioning. Six of the studies, involving 289 people, found that exercise could improve the ability of seniors with dementia to perform ADLs such as walking short distances and rising from a chair. The other four were part of a review conducted in 2008, of which the latest review is an update.

 “In our previous review, we were unable to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of exercise in older people with dementia due to a shortage of appropriate trials,” says researcher Dorothy Forbes, an associate professor of nursing who works at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. “Following this new review, we are now able to conclude that there is promising evidence for exercise programs improving cognition and the ability to carry out daily activities.”

The results of the individual trials differed substantially, so they investigators recommend caution in interpreting their findings. Also, their research did not reveal any clear effect of exercise on depression in seniors with dementia, and they say that more evidence is needed to understand how exercise could improve quality of life and reduce burdens on family caregivers and health systems.

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