(HealthDay News) – For patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a year-long exercise program is associated with reduced deterioration in physical functioning, according to a study published online April 15 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Kaisu H. Pitkälä, MD, PhD, from the Helsinki University Central Hospital, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 210 home-dwelling patients with Alzheimer’s disease living with their spousal caregiver to examine the effects of exercise on physical functioning and mobility. Participants were randomized to receive group-based exercise (GE; four-hour sessions, twice a week for one year); tailored home-based exercise (HE; one-hour training, twice a week for one year); or standard community care.

The researchers found that during the year after randomization all groups deteriorated in functioning, with significantly faster deterioration in the control group at six and 12 months. Changes in the Functional Independence Measure were −7.1 in the HE group; −10.3 in the GE group; and −14.4 in the control group at 12 months. During the follow-up year, participants in the GE and HE groups experienced significantly fewer falls than those in the control group. Per patient-caregiver dyad, the total costs of health care and social services per year were $25,112 for HE (P = 0.13 for comparison with control group); $22,066 for GE (P = 0.03 for comparison with control group); and $34,121 for the control group.

“An intensive and long-term exercise program had beneficial effects on the physical functioning of patients with Alzheimer’s disease without increasing the total costs of health and social services or causing any significant adverse effects,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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