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Physical exercise improves strength, balance, mobility, and endurance in people with cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review [with consumer summary]
Lam FMH, Huang M-Z, Liao L-R, Chung RCK, Kwok TCY, Pang MYC
Journal of Physiotherapy 2018 Jan;64(1):4-15
systematic review

QUESTION: Does physical exercise training improve physical function and quality of life in people with cognitive impairment and dementia? Which training protocols improve physical function and quality of life? How do cognitive impairment and other patient characteristics influence the outcomes of exercise training? DESIGN: Systematic review with meta-analysis of randomised trials. PARTICIPANTS: People with mild cognitive impairment or dementia as the primary diagnosis. INTERVENTION: Physical exercise. OUTCOME MEASURES: Strength, flexibility, gait, balance, mobility, walking endurance, dual-task ability, activities of daily living, quality of life, and falls. RESULTS: Forty-three clinical trials (n = 3,988) were included. According to the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system, the meta-analyses revealed strong evidence in support of using supervised exercise training to improve the results of 30-second sit-to-stand test (MD 2.1 repetitions, 95% CI 0.3 to 3.9), step length (MD 5 cm, 95% CI 2 to 8), Berg Balance Scale (MD 3.6 points, 95% CI 0.3 to 7.0), functional reach (3.9 cm, 95% CI 2.2 to 5.5), Timed Up and Go test (-1 second, 95% CI -2 to 0), walking speed (0.13 m/s, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.24), and 6-minute walk test (50m, 95% CI 18 to 81) in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Weak evidence supported the use of exercise in improving flexibility and Barthel Index performance. Weak evidence suggested that non-specific exercise did not improve dual-tasking ability or activity level. Strong evidence indicated that exercise did not improve quality of life in this population. The effect of exercise on falls remained inconclusive. Poorer physical function was a determinant of better response to exercise training, but cognitive performance did not have an impact. CONCLUSION: People with various levels of cognitive impairment can benefit from supervised multi-modal exercise for about 60 minutes a day, 2 to 3 days a week to improve physical function.

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