Research News

Exercise slows decline in adults with Alzheimer’s disease

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 17 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2422

A trial from Finland reports that exercising at home can help slow functional decline in adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Two hours of exercises a week, individually tailored and supervised by a physiotherapist, made a small but significant difference to scores of functional performance after one year, when compared with controls who had usual care in community settings. Group exercises at a day centre didn’t seem to work as well, possibly because adherence wasn’t as good in this group.

We know exercise is good for older adults, and this trial from Finland suggests that those with Alzheimer’s disease should not be excluded, says a linked editorial. (doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1215). Those who exercised at home were 7 points better off after one year than controls, on a scale running from 0 to 126 (change in functional independence measure −7.1 in the home exercise group v −14.4 in the control group, P=0.004). Would carers notice this size of effect? Possibly not, says the editorial. But the findings are still encouraging. Both interventions looked safe (fewer falls than controls) and no more expensive than usual care in a preliminary look at costs.

Finland has universal healthcare coverage and excellent community care for people with Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may not travel well to other less generous health systems, say the authors. They acknowledge that their trial was on the small side, with just 70 adults in each of the three arms, and also mention that attempts to mask assessors weren’t very successful.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2422