May 28, 2014
Study Shows Dementia Patients Benefit from Holistic Exercise Program
Dementia patients can often suffer from depression and declining physical and mental ability, however exercise has been shown to help improve both their physical and psychological state. Researchers at Teesside University in the U.K. investigated how the combination of cognitive activities and elements of yoga, tai chi, qigong and meditation affected dementia patients. It was concluded that a holistic exercise program focusing on both mind and body can help improve quality of life for dementia patients.
For this study, conducted in association with the Alzheimer's Society (UK), researchers developed the Happy Antics program, a holistic exercise plan that integrates physical movements with consideration for the emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual health of the patients. Each Happy Antics session began with a cognitive exercise in which participants were shown a picture of an object while the instructor spoke briefly about it. The patients were then encouraged to discuss the object and ask questions. This activity was followed by warm-up exercises and then physical exercise drawing from principals of tai chi, yoga, qigong, and dance. Each session ended with a short, guided meditation that focused on breathing and mindfulness.
Fifteen participants ranging from 52 to 86 years old attended the program: eight dementia patients, five care-givers, and two volunteers. Some patients said they felt more relaxed after the sessions and experienced some degree of pain relief. Other patients found learning to do the new exercises "empowering," even though sometimes they faced physical difficulty performing the tasks.
"When the wellness approach is applied to exercise, holistic exercise strives to encourage individuals to not only to take part in the physical activities, but also to become aware of their own physical and psychological states, and to perform exercise that is purposeful and meaningful to them," explained lead investigator Yvonne J-Lyn Khoo, BSc (Hons), MS, PhD, of the Health and Social Care Institute, Teesside University.