Rigorous Exercise Does Not Halt Dementia Decline, Study Concludes

Keeping active helps prevent the onset of dementia, but once the disease has taken hold, working out more does nothing to slow its progress.

Moderate to more intense exercise does not help people with dementia and may even make it worse, according to a major study which had hoped to find it slowed down the progress of the disease so that gym sessions could be offered as treatment by the NHS.

Regular exercise and an active life are thought to help prevent or delay dementia, and some small studies have been done in dementia patients with positive results.

But a trial found that gym exercise did nothing to slow down the progress of the disease.

“I was disappointed by the results, although I probably wasn’t completely surprised,” said Prof Sarah Lamb, lead author of a paper in the British Medical Journal.

“I think it would be fair to say that dementia is a difficult problem to fix,” said Lamb, who works at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences at Oxford University.

Nearly 500 people with dementia volunteered to join the trial, and of those 329 were assigned to a serious physical fitness regime, while 165 had usual care. Those allocated to four months of physical exercise, which was personalised according to their fitness, did two gym sessions a week lasting 60 to 90 minutes, involving exercise such as cycling on static bikes and using dumb bells and weight belts. They were also asked to do a further hour a week at home.

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