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Research 'inconclusive' on exercise benefits for dementia

Research 'inconclusive' on exercise benefits for dementia
18th July 2008

Research studies have not yet proved that exercise is good for dementia, according to a new review.

To date there have been few high-quality studies because research is in its early stages and has focused on diagnosis and treatment, said Dorothy Forbes, lead author of the Cochrane Library review.

Although there is evidence from animal research which suggests exercise is good for dementia, the review team found only four studies which looked into the effects of exercise on dementia in humans.

Professor Forbes commented that there is some suggestion of exercise being linked to improved cognitive function in dementia patients, but more robust studies are needed.

Dr William Thies, vice-president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, expressed his agreement: "It's true that the studies had a trend toward benefits, but that's not enough to say that physical exercise ought to be a necessary element of everyone's dementia care."

According to a recent study published in the Neurology journal, Alzheimer's patients who did more exercise had larger brains than those who were less physically fit.

Jeffrey Burns, from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, said his team's study may suggest that people with early Alzheimer's could preserve their brain function for longer by taking regular exercise.

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