(HealthDay News) – Exercise programs may improve cognition and the ability to perform daily tasks in older adults with dementia, according to a review published online Dec. 4 in The Cochrane Library.

As an update to their review in 2008, Dorothy Forbes, RN, PhD, from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues identified and reviewed data from eight randomized controlled trials involving 329 older people with dementia who were assigned to exercise programs or to control groups.

After performing a meta-analysis, the researchers found that exercise programs had a significant impact on improving cognitive function (standardized mean difference, 0.55), although there was substantial heterogeneity between trials. Six trials involving 289 people showed that exercise programs significantly improved the ability to perform activities of daily living (standardized mean difference, 0.68), but again with substantial heterogeneity.

“There is promising evidence that exercise programs can have a significant impact in improving ability to perform activities of daily living and possibly in improving cognition in people with dementia, although some caution is advised in interpreting these findings,” Forbes and colleagues conclude.

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