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'Surprising' study suggests exercise may make dementia worse
17 May 2018, 11:40 | Randall Craig
Exercise could be linked to worsening of dementia
After taking account of potentially influential factors, the researchers found that cognitive impairment declined over the 12-month follow-up in both groups.
The sessions included 20 minutes on a fixed cycle and lifting weights while getting out of a chair.
While physical exercise may keep off dementia, however it does not delay the mental decline in old people after they have been diagnosed, a study conducted 500 people with the condition reported on Thursday (May 17).
While the exercise programme did improve people's physical fitness, at least in the short term, it did not improve their quality of life or ability to care for themselves, or the quality of life of those caring for them.
Although the difference between the two groups was small, the researchers say exercise should not be recommended for people with dementia and called for future trials to 'consider the possibility that some types of exercise intervention might worsen cognitive impairment'.
Nearly 500 people with dementia took part, with 329 embarking on a special exercise programme and 165 receiving their usual care.
Although several recent studies reported that exercise may improve memory and slow down mental decline, there have also been studies with conflicting results. Those taking part in the exercise programme had their physical fitness measured at the start of the programme and again after 6 weeks.
The authors added, "These benefits do not, however, translate into improvements in cognitive impairment, activities in daily living, behaviour, or health-related quality of life".
"This indicates greater cognitive impairment in the exercise group, although the average difference is small and clinical relevance uncertain", the authors wrote.
People taking part in RCTs usually do not know whether they're in the treatment or control group, but this was impossible to hide for an exercise study. While some of the headlines were a bit alarmist - such as The Independent's "Exercise could make dementia progression worse not better" - most of the reports were balanced and accurate.
"I was disappointed by the results, although I probably wasn't completely surprised", Sarah Lamb, the study's lead author and a researcher at Oxford University, told Guardian reporter Sarah Bosely.
He continued, "We know there are ways we can all reduce our risk of dementia, such as staying physically active, eating healthily and not smoking". We used a very specialized exercise program.
However, a new study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that exercise may not help dementia sufferers.
People with dementia are now forced to rely on services so starved of funding that they're unable to protect them from harm and the doors of A&E, let alone provide specialist care and support.
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