Study: Home Exercises Reduce Physical Decline in Alzheimer’s

If your mental health is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, regular exercise can slow disability and prevent falls. This is according to a new Finnish study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which indicated that exercise, particularly when tailored to your personal needs and performed at home, may help you maintain your independence and delay the move to a nursing home, without increasing overall costs.

Dr, Kostos Lyketsos, director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Centre, in Baltimore, who was not involved in the research, said, ‘This is an important study. If we could ever deliver exercise for people with dementia in their homes, I think we could accomplish very substantial benefits for patients and reduce costs, which is a very big deal … in health care these days.’

Study author Dr. Kaisu Pitkala, a general practitioner at the University of Helsinki, explained, ‘These people are at very high risk of disability. That’s one of the reasons they end up in institutional care. They need so much help that their caregivers often get very tired, and after a few years they will end up in institutional care, which is very expensive and often not the wish of the patients nor the caregivers.’

The researchers gave over 200 patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease a programme of either home exercise, group exercise at a day care centre, or the usual care that Alzheimer’s patients are given through the Finnish national health care system. After a year, all the groups saw declines in physical function, but the groups that exercised regularly fared better than those who got usual care, and those in the home-exercise group did the best by roughly 50%.

The researchers surmised that the group exercisers didn’t see bigger benefits possibly because they were more likely to skip their sessions than those who exercised at home. Pitkala noted, ‘When the taxi came to the person’s home to take them to the group-based exercise, they could say often, “Today I’m tired; I’m not coming”. When there’s a person coming to your home and telling you, “Let’s do a little bit today,” it’s much easier to say yes than it is to go outside your home.’

According to another wellness expert who was not involved in the study, the research offers a practical blueprint to improve the wellbeing of patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Dr James Galvin, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at NYU Langone School of Medicine, in New York City, commented, ‘If you can do something that can improve their physical functioning and mobility and help them stay home and not actually cost anything – or be cost neutral – I think you can make a huge potential impact on a family’s quality of life.’

Comments are closed.