Long-term effects of a high-intensity exercise program in nursing home residents with dementia

Research indicates that exercise can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health in nursing home patients with dementia, however the lasting effect is rarely studied. In a previously published article the authors investigated the immediate effect of a 12 weeks functional exercise program on physical function and mental health in nursing home residents with dementia.

In this paper the authors studied the long-term effect of this exercise program. The study explored the differences between the exercise and control group from baseline to 6 months follow-up and during the detraining period from month 3 to 6.

A single blind, randomized controlled trial was conducted and a total of 170 nursing home residents with dementia were included. The participants were randomly allocated to an intervention or a control group. The intervention consisted of intensive strengthening and balance exercises in small groups twice a week for 12 weeks. The control condition was leisure activities. Thirty participants were lost between baseline and six-month follow-up. Linear mixed model analyses for repeated measurements were used to investigate the effect of exercise after detraining period.

The exercise group improved their scores on Berg Balance Scale from baseline to 6 months follow-up by 2.7 points in average. The control group deteriorated in the same period and the difference between groups was statistically significant. The exercise group also scored better on NPI agitation sub-score after 6 months.

The results demonstrate long-time positive effects of a high intensity functional exercise program on balance and indicate a positive effect on agitation, after an intervention period of 12 weeks followed by a detraining period of 12 weeks.