FPIN's Help Desk Answers

Exercise to Improve Functioning in Patients with Dementia


Am Fam Physician. 2016 Aug 1;94(3):242.

Clinical Question

Do formal exercise programs improve functioning in activities of daily living (ADLs) in patients with dementia?

Evidence-Based Answer

Exercise programs lasting at least two months moderately increase the ability of patients with dementia to perform ADLs. (Strength of Recommendation: A, based on systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials [RCTs].)

A 2015 Cochrane review of six RCTs (N = 289) involving patients older than 65 years who had been diagnosed with dementia assessed the effect of exercise on cognitive, neuropsychiatric, behavioral, and ADL outcomes.1 Dementia was diagnosed using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders

Address correspondence to Margo Harrison, DO, at margo.harrison@advocatehealth.com. Reprints are not available from the authors.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Forbes D, Forbes SC, Blake CM, Thiessen EJ, Forbes S. Exercise programs for people with dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(4):CD006489.

2. Rao AK, Chou A, Bursley B, Smulofsky J, Jezequel J. Systematic review of the effects of exercise on activities of daily living in people with Alzheimer's disease. Am J Occup Ther. 2014;68(1):50–56.

Help Desk Answers provides answers to questions submitted by practicing family physicians to the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN). Members of the network select questions based on their relevance to family medicine. Answers are drawn from an approved set of evidence-based resources and undergo peer review. The strength of recommendations and the level of evidence for individual studies are rated using criteria developed by the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group (http://www.cebm.net/?o=1025).

The complete database of evidence-based questions and answers is copyrighted by FPIN. If interested in submitting questions or writing answers for this series, go to http://www.fpin.org or email: questions@fpin.org.

This series is coordinated by John E. Delzell Jr., MD, MSPH, Assistant Medical Editor.


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Apr 15, 2017

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