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Study Shows Exercise Doesn't Delay Decline In People With Dementia

17 May 2018

While physical exercise may stave off dementia, it does not delay mental decline in people after they've been diagnosed, a study in almost 500 people with the condition reported Thursday.

While physical exercise may stave off dementia, it does not delay mental decline in people after they've been diagnosed.

In a second study on aging published by the academic journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, however, U.S. researcher found improvements in certain complex thinking and memory skills among elderly video-game players.

It is generally believed that exercise can delay the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

For the latest study, researchers took 494 people in England who had been diagnosed with dementia, and assigned 329 of them to an exercise programme.

The exercise program consisted of group sessions of 60 to 90 minutes in a gym twice-a-week for four months, plus home exercises for one additional hour each week with ongoing support.

A surprising study by a team of UK researchers says people with dementia should avoid intense physical activities
A surprising study by a team of UK researchers says people with dementia should avoid intense physical activities

"This indicates greater cognitive impairment in the exercise group, although the average difference is small and clinical relevance uncertain", the authors wrote.

Indeed participants who had taken part in an exercise program had slightly worse scores in an Alzheimer's assessment when they were tested a year later.

After allowing for potentially complicating factors, the Oxford researchers concluded cognitive impairment declined in both study groups over the 12-month period.

Commenting on the study, which was published in the BMJ, Rob Howard, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at University College London said: "Had this been instead an improvement in cognitive functioning with exercise we would all have been excited about finding something positive in the, so far, depressing fight against dementia".

The authors said the study had shown people with mild to moderate dementia could engage in moderate to high-intensity exercise to improve their physical fitness.

"The search for effective lifestyle interventions that can delay cognitive decline in dementia must continue".

Study Shows Exercise Doesn't Delay Decline In People With Dementia