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Dec 04, 2013 08:30 AM EST

Exercise Improves Memory, Attention in Dementia Patients, Study

Regular physical activity improves cognitive functioning and the ability to perform everyday tasks in older people suffering from dementia, according to a new University of Alberta study. Researchers said that physical exercise which has been found to previously help prevent dementia also helps pause progression.

"There is promising evidence that exercise programmes can have a significant impact in improving ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) and possibly in improving cognition in people with dementia", the authors wrote in the study, Guardian reports.

The study, led by Dorothy Forbes, an associate professor of nursing, is a meta-analysis of 16 previous studies. Among the 16 trials, eight of them including 329 patients focused on cognitive functioning. It showed that exercise could significantly improve their memory and attention. Another six studies involving 289 people, concentrated on patients' daily household activities. It found that exercise considerably improved their ability to carry out daily activities.

"In our previous review, we were unable to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of exercise in older people with dementia, due to a shortage of appropriate trials," said researcher, Dorothy Forbes, an Associate Professor of Nursing who works at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. "Following this new review, we are now able to conclude that there is promising evidence for exercise programs improving cognition and the ability to carry out daily activities. However, we do still need to be cautious about how we interpret these findings," Science Codex reports.

According to Alzheimer's association, Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 5 million Americans are affected with the disease. One in three seniors dies of Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society, said that other forms of physical activity such as gardening and singing also proves beneficial to people who are in the later stages of dementia.

"We do know that exercise is an important part of keeping healthy, and though we can't say that exercise will prevent dementia, evidence does suggest it can help reduce the risk of the condition as part of a healthy lifestyle," Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer's Research UK said, BBC reports.

The findings have been published on Wednesday in the Cochrane Library.

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