Drug treatments have long been prescribed by medical professionals for dementia, but how effective is exercise at preventing the symptoms and progressions of the condition? Dementia has the potential to put large stress on our health professionals and families in the future, with an estimate that in 2050 up to 135 million to be affected globally. So an effective treatment in the form of exercise, which can be very cost effective poses as an ideal option.
A study in 2014 at the University of Sydney looked at progressive resistance training in patients with mild cognitive impairment (the stage before dementia) in comparison with cognitive training (computer based memory and brain training programs) and placebos (fake exercise and fake cognitive training). There had been much study before this on aerobic exercise, so the goal was to see the effect of just resistance training over a period of 6 months.
The results were quite interesting. Patients undertaking just resistance training displayed more improvements in their cognitive tests (ADAS-Cog) than those doing a combination of exercise and cognitive training. The resistance training individuals actually improved their scores by double at the end of the study. The authors hypothesised that a combination of both resistance and cognitive training be too much for patients to complete effectively, opening the idea of better ways to complete the two together. Resistance also has the added benefit of strength and falls prevention in older adults who display the highest rates of mild cognitive impairment.