Aerobic + Strength Exercise Doesn't Slow Cognitive Decline

Moderate-to-high intensity exercise ups physical fitness but does not slow cognitive decline in dementia.
Moderate-to-high intensity exercise ups physical fitness but does not slow cognitive decline in dementia.

HealthDay News — An aerobic and strength exercise program does not slow cognitive impairment among people with mild-to-moderate dementia, according to a study published online May 16 in The BMJ.

Sarah E. Lamb, DPhil, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a multicenter trial involving 494 people with dementia. Of these, 329 were randomized to an aerobic and strength exercise program, involving usual care plus 4 months of supervised exercise and support for ongoing physical activity, and 165 were randomized to usual care.  

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The researchers found that the mean Alzheimer's disease assessment scale-cognitive subscale score had increased to 25.2 and 23.8 in the exercise arm and usual care group, respectively, by 12 months (adjusted between-group difference, −1.4), indicating greater cognitive impairment in the exercise group; the clinical relevance was unclear. There were no differences in secondary outcomes or preplanned subgroup analyses by dementia type, severity of cognitive impairment, sex, and mobility. Good exercise compliance was seen; more than 65 percent of participants attended more than 75% of scheduled sessions. Over six weeks, there was improvement in 6-minute walking distance (mean change, 18.1m).

"A moderate- to high-intensity aerobic and strength exercise training program does not slow cognitive impairment in people with mild-to-moderate dementia," the authors write. "The exercise training program improved physical fitness, but there were no noticeable improvements in other clinical outcomes."

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