Could something as simple as walking for an hour, three times a week really have a positive impact on people who are already diagnosed with dementia?
The links between the positive effects of exercise and dementia have been well-established by researchers over the last few years. However, often exercise has been prescribed as a preventative measure, for helping to reduce your risk of dementia.
Now research published in the journal claims exercise can have benefits even after you’ve been diagnosed with dementia.
A trial at the University of British Columbia in Canada on elderly people with vascular dementia and an average age of 74 found those who walked for an hour, three times a week saw an improvement in overall thinking skills.
However, the improvement was quite small – thinking skills improved by an average of 1.7 points, compared to those who did not exercise.
Study author Teresa Liu-Ambrose said: ‘Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce the risk of developing memory problems, but few studies have looked at whether it can help people who already have these problems get better or keep from getting worse.
‘This result, while modest, was similar to that seen in previous studies testing the use of drugs for people with vascular cognitive impairment.
‘However, the difference was less than what is considered to be the minimal clinically important difference of three points.’
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘We already know keeping active, along with a balanced diet, is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. This study goes further, suggesting that frequent exercise provides modest improvements in memory and thinking for people who already have vascular dementia.
‘Although this was a small study and the benefits of exercise didn’t help those involved with daily decision making or activities, it is promising to see researchers focussing on important issues around exercise. We need to know more about who it can benefit, what kind of exercise works, and how to encourage people to take it up and keep it up.
‘Testing whether new research actually works in the real world is a key priority for Alzheimer’s Society and we fund researchers every day to do exactly that.’
While this study illustrates only a small improvement, it’s an action that could be easily implemented (so long as mobility isn’t an issue), and more importantly free to everyone!
Find out why it’s important to stay active with dementia by clicking here.