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The results of a new study support physicians? advice that exercise can slow some of the damage, specifically physical impairment, caused by Alzheimer?s disease. The researchers discovered that Alzheimer?s patients who were instructed through a home exercise program by caregivers who also were trained in handling behavioral problems were less depressed and in better physical shape, compared with patients who were left to their own devices. These findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (October 15, 2003).
The 3-month study included 153 Seattle-area residents with Alzheimer?s disease. Of the 153 participants, 76 were assigned to receive normal care for the disease. The remaining patients were given the same care, but they and the people who cared for them also were enrolled in a Reducing Disability in Alzheimer?s Disease (RDAD) program developed by university researchers.
During the study, training sessions taught caregivers how to get the Alzheimer?s patients to do exercises to increase strength, mobility, balance, and flexibility.The exercises included stretching, bending, and working out with half-pound weights on their wrists. At the conclusion of the study, patients in the RDAD group were 3 times more likely to exercise for at least 1 hour a week and had two thirds fewer days of restricted activity. Over the next 2 years, the physical ability of the RDAD group improved, while it deteriorated in the patients without the training. Also, only 19% of those in the RDAD group had to be institutionalized in nursing homes, compared with 50% in the other group.