Study finds exercise gives no benefit to memory for people with dementia

TBH LP - Image 4
TBH LP - Image 4

By Alice Tuohy | Wednesday 16 May 2018

BMJ:  Dementia and Physical Activity (DAPA) trial of moderate to high intensity exercise training for people with dementia: randomised controlled trial

Scientists in the UK have found that a four-month high intensity physical training programme in people with dementia does not improve their memory or the ability to carry out everyday tasks but does improve other aspects of their physical health. The findings are published today (Wednesday 16 May) in the scientific publication, BMJ.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“While there is good evidence to suggest that physical exercise can play an important role in reducing the risk of developing dementia, there has been relatively little research into whether structured exercise programmes could affect the progression of symptoms in people who are already living with the condition.

“This well-conducted study found that a four-month structured high intensity exercise programme did not slow memory and thinking decline in a group of people living with mild to moderate dementia. Some previous studies have linked physical training to an improved ability to carry out everyday tasks, but while this study found the exercise regimen led to an improvement in participants’ physical fitness, this did not translate into greater independence in day-to-day activities.

“This was a high quality trial involving a large number of people with dementia, and while the findings carry significant weight, the researchers note that other forms of exercise may have different effects and this should be explored in future research. There are very few effective treatments for dementia and as scientists work to bring about new life changing medicines, it is important that we continue to see investment in research into other forms of therapy that could help people living with the condition.

“As well as the well-established benefits to physical health, for many people exercise can be a source of enjoyment and provide valuable opportunities for social interaction­. These considerations can apply to people living with dementia just as much as they do to anyone else.”


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Alice Tuohy