Exercise Beneficial for Dementia Patients Living at Home
Researchers led by Kaisu H. Pitkälä, MD, University Helsinki, Finland report that regular exercise may help slow down the physical function deterioration in patients with Alzheimer’s disease who live at home. The results of the randomized Finnish Alzheimer Disease Exercise Trial (FINALEX) also showed that exercising can reduce the patients’ risk for falls without increasing health care costs.
The researchers note that while previous studies have shown the benefits of regular exercise in dementia patients staying in nursing homes, this new study shows that exercise intervention can help patients and their families maintain their way of life longer without increasing the use or costs of health and social services.
The study involved 210 patients who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group did home-based exercise (HE) one hour twice weekly, guided by a physiotherapist. The second group underwent physiotherapist guided group exercise (GE) during visits to day care centers twice weekly. Both interventions lasted for one year. A control group received usual community care.
Results showed that deterioration in physical functioning in patients in the exercise groups was significantly slower compared the control group. The risk of falling was also significantly reduced in the exercise groups compared to the control.
Dr. Pitkälä states that their results demonstrate that exercise must be guided by a physiotherapist, and tailored according to the patients’ needs in their everyday life. Exercise must be intensive, lasting for one hour twice a week, and done on a long-term basis before its effectiveness is shown. The study was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Brooks, M. Exercise Helpful in Home-Dwelling Dementia Patients. Medscape.