Evidence summary (updated 2022)
There is some qualitative evidence for the benefit of physical activity and exercise participation to reduce loneliness and social isolation in people with dementia.
There is some qualitative evidence that engaging in physical activity is enjoyable and pleasurable for people living with dementia, and their carers(1).
There is some qualitative evidence that participating in physical activity can help promote feelings of confidence and purpose as well as helping people living with dementia to express themselves(1).
There is some evidence for combined mental activity and exercise interventions for promotion of quality of life and well-being(2,3). Opportunities to undertake physical activity that is adapted to people living with dementia in holistic, peaceful environments alongside those with shared experiences is preferred and patients may have psychological benefits(1,4).
There is limited systematic review evidence of benefits of physical activity to improve global well-being .
Expert opinion strongly recommends physical activity and exercise participation to maintain social contact, reduce loneliness and promote sense-of-self for individuals with cognitive decline.
Quality of evidence
Grade C – Weak
Strength of recommendation
2 – Strong
The supporting evidence is of low quality and has significant heterogeneity. Consider options to promote activity to maintain participation in groups and family-based activities and facilitate individuals with cognitive decline to remain engaged within their social network to reduce loneliness, promote sense of self and global well-being.
- Professor CV, Mansfield L, O’connell N, Gifford J, Prescott A. Physical Activity and Dementia: Rapid Evidence Reviews. 2021.
- Potter R, Ellard D, Rees K, Thorogood M. A systematic review of the effects of physical activity on physical functioning, quality of life and depression in older people with dementia. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry [Internet]. 2011 Oct [cited 2022 Jul 22];26(10):1000–11. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21905096/
- Middleton LE, Ventura MI, Santos-Modesitt W, Poelke G, Yaffe K, Barnes DE. The Mental Activity and eXercise (MAX) Trial: Effects on Physical Function and Quality of Life among Older Adults with Cognitive Complaints. Contemp Clin Trials [Internet]. 2018 Jan 1 [cited 2022 Jul 22];64:161. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5760217/
- Khoo YJL, van Schaik P, McKenna J. The Happy Antics programme: Holistic exercise for people with dementia. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2014 Oct 1;18(4):553–8.