It’s no news that regular exercise is generally considered a good thing for all people, including those who experience some form of dementia. Activities that increase a person’s physical strength and endurance are worthy in and of themselves. But people with dementia may benefit in two specific ways: better balance and less dependence on other people.
That may seem like common sense on the surface, but it’s something that may not be focused on during everyday life. Caregivers may have their hands full with other issues related to proper care, and doctors may be working on other areas that they deem a priority.
But a new study from Sweden suggests that it’s worth it for people with dementia to try to keep up a regular exercise routine. This study, entitled “Effects of a High-Intensity Functional Exercise Program on Dependence in Activities of Daily Living and Balance in Older Adults with Dementia,” looked specifically at how exercise might improve balance and cut down dependency in people with dementia.
The specific objective of the study was “to investigate the effects of a high-intensity functional exercise program on independence in activities of daily living (ADLs) and balance in older people with dementia and whether exercise effects differed between dementia types.” To that end, scientists looked at 186 people in Sweden with dementia who were 65 years of age or older and who depended on others for personal care. Participants were put into two groups, one of which was assigned a regular exercise program. The program focused on leg strength, balance, and walking and involved 2-3 45-minute sessions each week for a period of four months.
Those in the exercise group experienced a significantly slower decline in function. Their balance improved and their risk of falls was decreased. In addition, their need to depend on others was less than that of the patients in the group which did not participate in the exercise program.
Of course, regular exercise can have other benefits as well, such as improving cardiac health or helping people to sleep better. Those caring for people with dementia should discuss the possible benefits of exercise with a doctor to determine if their loved ones should consider a regular exercise routine.