The link between your yearly earnings and risk of dementia

Exercise-istock

Among patients with dementia, exercise is beneficial for improving physical fitness, but it can not be recommended as a treatment option for slowing cognitive impairment in dementia.

Nearly 47.5 million people worldwide have dementia, including 4 to 5 million Americans.

Oxford University studied almost 500 people, with an average age of 77 years, in 15 regions across England who were randomly given either supervised exercise and support programmes, or normal elderly care.

The analysis of NHS exercise programmes found no improvements in the thinking skills or behaviour of more than 300 people over 70 who took part in aerobic and strength exercises over four months, the BBC reported. The exercise group were fitter, but had marginally higher Alzheimer's disease assessment scores compared with the rest. The researchers concluded that exercise can not be used as a treatment for cognitive disorders such as dementia in the United States.

There were also no differences between the groups in the other outcomes assessed, such as the number of falls and quality of life.

Although a fitness regime improved the physical fitness in people with mild to moderate dementia, however it "does not slow cognitive impairment", researchers told to The BMJ medical journal.

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The physical fitness of the exercise group improved over the first 6 weeks of the exercise programme, as measured by the 6-minute-walk test. "Exergaming is one more thing that could be added to the arsenal of tools to fight back against this cruel disease".

After their general health and fitness was assessed, the participants were randomly assigned to either a supervised exercise program or to "usual care". We know that gentle exercise is good for you. And the number of people who declined to participate in the study was high; more men than women participated, even though dementia is more common in women in western Europe.

More than a third of the people invited to take part in the study declined, and 60% of the participants were men, which is unusual in dementia studies because more women than men have the condition.

The researchers carried out a randomised controlled trial (RCT), which is usually the best way to see if a treatment works. For example, participants and carers knew which group they were in, and the period of structured exercise may have been too short to produce positive benefits.

These results disagree with several small studies about the benefits of exercise in dementia patients, but "our study was much larger and hence less prone to error", Lamb said.

The present study clearly showed this type of fairly intensive, gym-based physical-fitness-building programme does not seem to slow dementia symptoms in people already in the early stages of the disease.

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