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Exercise does not prevent or delay onset of dementia
17 May 2018, 11:44 | Melissa Porter
Exercise could be linked to worsening of dementia
"This trial suggests that people with mild to moderate dementia can engage and comply with moderate to high intensity aerobic and strengthening exercise and improve physical fitness", said the authors.
From February 2013 to June 2015, the researchers screened and randomized 329 participants to an exercise and support program and 165 to usual care, following them for about a year. "A moderate exercise program over a longer period of time may be beneficial; I don't think this research is definitive in that regard".
Researchers took a look at 6,220 British people over the age of 65, and found that those with fewer financial resources when they were older were more likely to develop dementia.
The researchers pointed to some trial limitations.
Currently, as a dementia therapy that does not involve medication, the NHS recommends group cognitive stimulation therapy classes, where sufferers undertake exercises created to improve their memory, problem-solving skills and language ability.
The participants in both groups had their cognitive abilities and physical fitness assessed at the start of the study and then six and 12 months later. Although it improved short-term physical fitness, this "did not translate to improvements in activities of daily living, behavioural outcomes or health-related quality of life".
They took part in 60-90-minute group sessions in a gym twice a week for about four months, and home exercises as an additional hour per week.
ADAS-cog results run on a scale from 0 to 70, with higher scores suggesting greater impairment.
The exercise group had higher global ADAS-cog scores at 12 months (adjusted mean difference -1.4, 95% CI -2.6 to -0.2), indicating worse cognition.
The study found the exercise group did not experience any difference in the ability to perform daily living tasks or the number of falls, when compared with their non-exercising peers. However, they added that it was uncertain "whether the effect on cognitive impairment we observed is important". Although the exercise programme improved physical fitness, it can not be recommended as a treatment option for cognitive impairment in dementia, say the researchers.
These results disagree with several small studies about the benefits of exercise in dementia patients, but "our study was much larger and hence less prone to error", Lamb said. One factor not measured was whether people with dementia enjoyed the exercise. Compliance with the exercise program was good.
The study found that the connection could be made regardless of the level of schooling people had received, and other health indicators. There's good evidence that keeping active and taking physical exercise may reduce the chances of getting the condition by around 30%.
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