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Researchers investigate effects of exercise on people with dementia

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Researchers are looking for people living with dementia to study whether special exercise classes can improve their memory, health and quality of life.

A team from the University of Salford wants people with dementia to take part in a series of specially designed sessions once a week at leisure centres in the city.

The 60 minute sessions, at the Humphrey Booth Resource Centre in Swinton and the Rainbow Rooms in Eccles, will cover a range of exercises aimed at increasing blood flow to the brain – from strength and endurance sessions to dance classes.

Researchers from the University’s School of Health Science will use heart rate and activity monitors to follow the effectiveness of the sessions, which start on September 12.

They will also test the participants’ overall health and ability to balance before and after the eight-week programme and will perform psychological assessments to see whether the sessions have improved memory and enhanced mood.

As well as this, they will ask the participants and their carers more detailed questions about whether the exercise programme has improved their quality of life and whether they found it easy to attend the sessions.

The University’s Institute For Dementia, which brings together experts from different fields, worked with people living with the condition to develop the sessions, as well as groups such as Age UK and physiotherapists from digital healthcare company Intelesant.

The project has been funded by the Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Salford Community and Voluntary Services through the Health and Wellbeing Innovation fund.

The researchers will use the project to determine whether public health organisations should hold similar sessions specifically designed for people with dementia, or whether they should instead focus on encouraging people with dementia to take part in more general community exercise groups.

Dr Kristen Hollands, Senior Research Fellow at the University, said: “Previous studies have suggested exercise can have a positive effect on people living with dementia – by increasing blood flow to the brain, enhancing mood and encouraging social interaction to combat loneliness and isolation. However, more work is needed to find out what type of exercise is best and if people will attend exercise classes regularly.

“We’ve worked closely with people living with dementia as well as their carers to design these sessions specifically for them, and a lot of effort has gone into making them sure they are enjoyable and sociable occasions.

“We’re going to look closely at what effect the sessions have on participants, but we’ll also be looking at whether it’s necessary to run sessions aimed specifically at people with dementia, or whether they would get just as much benefit going to regular sessions taking place in the community.”

Kevin Barr, from Cadishead, who has already tried some one-off exercise sessions and will be taking part in the programme, said: “I’d recommend this to anyone. They don’t push you and they don’t do anything that’s very difficult or strenuous. I felt much better having done one of the sessions and it really made me want to carry on to do the next one.”

People who can’t commit to the full eight week programme can attend one-off sessions held at the University, which will only measure the physical benefits of the exercise.

Anyone interested in either should contact Dr Chris Pickford on