Elderly dementia patients who exercise regularly have better mental and physical health than those who do not, according to the findings of two recent studies.
In the first study, conducted by researchers from Dong-Eui University in Busan, South Korea, and published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, 30 elderly women who had been diagnosed with senile dementia were divided into two groups. Half of the women exercised for 30 to 60 minutes a day for two or three days a week, while the other half did not undergo any exercise regimen. The average participant age was 80.
Both groups of women were given regular tests of memory recall, object identification and memory, reading, writing, and orientation to place and time. After six months, the scores of the women in the exercise group had improved by an average of 20 per cent, and after one year they had improved by 30 per cent. In contrast, there was no significant change in the scores of women in the control group.
Women in the exercise group also demonstrated an improved ability to perform daily acts such as getting dressed, bathing and eating. Exercise capacity and muscle strength also improved.
In the second study, researchers from the Alzheimer’s and Memory Program at the University Of Kansas School Of Medicine used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure the brains of 57 people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. They also evaluated the participants’ fitness by measuring their peak oxygen demand during a treadmill test.
Participants who scored higher on the physical fitness tests experienced significantly less brain shrinkage than those who scored more poorly.
Prior research has demonstrated that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients shrink twice as fast as the normal rate due to aging. The connection between brain shrinkage and Alzheimer’s symptoms is not clear, however.
In the current study, there was no difference in scores on mental performance tests between those who were more and less physically fit.