Exercise Program May Benefit Alzheimer's Patients

By Splete, Heidi | Clinical Psychiatry News, May 2008 | Go to article overview

Exercise Program May Benefit Alzheimer's Patients


Splete, Heidi, Clinical Psychiatry News


WASHINGTON -- A regular exercise program not only promotes flexibility, balance, and strength in elderly people with dementia, but it also might improve their mental function.

"You won't get oxygen to the brain if you don't get air down into the alveoli," said Marge A. Coalman, Ed.D., vice president of wellness and programs at Touch mark, an Oregon-based company that operates a range of retirement communities including nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities in the United States and Canada. She spoke at a joint conference of the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging.

The World Health Organization and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sport endorse exercise for people with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other dementias, Dr. Coalman pointed out. The first research confirming that stand came 5 years ago in a randomized, controlled trial of 153 AD patients, she added. Those who participated in supervised exercise for at least 60 minutes per week had significantly better physical function and less depression than did patients who didn't exercise (JAMA 2003;290:2015-22). Since then, studies in mice and people have suggested that exercise creates new cells in areas of the brain that are affected by age-related memory loss.

If nothing else, exercise offers hope to people with dementia that they can improve their condition. "There's so little hope you can hold out to people with this diagnosis," Dr. Coalman said. "Something as simple as a predictable exercise routine makes a huge difference."

The "memory care exercise program" developed for residents with dementia and used at Touchmark facilities rests on four fundamentals--deep breathing, posture, range of motion, and strength. The degree of participation varies according to the resident's condition. Some patients continue exercising for as long as 30 minutes, but the average is 7 minutes. …

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