Background: Dementia is among the leading causes of functional loss and disability in older adults. Research has demonstrated that nursing home patients without dementia can improve their function in activities of daily living, strength, balance and mental well being by physical exercise. The evidence on effect of physical exercise among nursing home patients with dementia is scarce and ambiguous. Thus, the primary objective of this study was to investigate the effect of a high intensity functional exercise program on the performance of balance in nursing home residents with dementia. The secondary objective was to examine the effect of this exercise on muscle strength, mobility, activities of daily living, quality of life and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Design and Methods: This single blinded randomized controlled trial was conducted among 170 persons with dementia living in nursing homes. Mean age was 86.7 years (SD = 7.4) and 74% were women. The participants were randomly allocated to an intervention (n = 87) or a control group (n = 83). The intervention consisted of intensive strengthening and balance exercises in small groups twice a week for 12 weeks. The control condition was leisure activities. Results: The intervention group improved the score on Bergs Balance Scale by 2.9 points, which was significantly more than the control group who improved by 1.2 points (p = 0.02). Having exercised 12 times or more was significantly associated with improved strength after intervention (p<0.05). The level of apathy was lower in the exercise group after the intervention, compared to the control group (p = 0.048). Conclusion: The results from our study indicate that a high intensity functional exercise program improved balance and muscle strength as well as reduced apathy in nursing home patients with dementia. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02262104.
Telenius, E. W., Engedal, K., & Bergland, A. (2015). Effect of a high-intensity exercise program on physical function and mental health in nursing home residents with dementia: An assessor blinded randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 10(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126102