July 8, 2008 / 6:27 PM / 11 years ago

Regular exercise good for dementia patients: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Regular daily exercise benefits elderly women with dementia and these benefits appear to accrue over time, researchers from the Republic of Korea report.

Dr. Yi-Sub Kwak, assistant professor of sports medicine at Dong-Eui University in Busan, and colleagues compared daily functioning as well as mental and physical abilities of 30 women with senile dementia before and after half participated in a regular exercise program.

Their findings, reported in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, suggest “regular exercise improves the mental and physical health in senile dementia,” Kwak told Reuters Health.

The researchers enlisted 15 women who were about 80 years old on average and had doctor-diagnosed dementia, to participate in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 2 to 3 days each week for a year. A similar group of 15 women did not participate in regular daily exercise and served as the “control” group.

At study entry and again 6 and 12 months later Kwak’s team evaluated the participants’ mental abilities through tests that determine orientation to time and place, memory recall, identifying and remembering objects, reading, and writing.

After 6 months, women in the exercise group showed a 20 percent overall improvement in these abilities. After 12 months, mental ability scores improved by 30 percent.

By contrast, the researchers noted no changes in the mental ability scores of the non-exercisers.

Women who exercised also improved in their abilities to perform acts of daily living, like getting dressed, feeding, and bathing. They also enhanced their capacity to exercise and their muscle strength.

Together, these findings indicate that regular exercise appears to help senile dementia patients maintain their independence, Kwak and colleagues note.

SOURCE: International Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2008

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