"There is promising evidence that exercise programs can have a significant impact in improving ability to perform ADLs (Activities of Daily Living, such as household chores, moving around the house, shopping) 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. There was little or no evidence regarding the remaining outcomes of interest."
But the authors acknowledge that more studies in this area are needed.
What they also said in the review was that "in further analyses, we found that the burden experienced by informal caregivers providing care in the home may be reduced when they supervise the participation of the family member with dementia in an exercise program".
What this means in practice is that a regular exercise program for dementia patients, helps them not only to enjoy activities at home and 'able to do the things they have always done in life' but it also helps caregivers looking after loved ones with dementia.
This is an important review- it supports previous evidence that exercise helps prevent and treat some of the symptoms of dementia, but it also means that health professionals have the evidence to support brief intervention with dementia patients access suitable, disease specific exercise programs.
Exercise programs for dementia that include a balance between heart healthy, strength, balance and stretch activities have been found to work best.
So if you're a health professional, ensure you have the best evidence available to support your exercise intervention- and you could make a huge difference to your patient's health and care.
Every patient, deserves quality exercise advice- so please prescribe and support exercise, as a life saving intervention!
Check out our 35 'exercises for you' booklet, that help patients enjoy home exercise, or find out more about exercise and dementia here:
Ann Gates BPharm(Hons) MRPharmS
Founder of Exercise Works!