Does physical exercise improve the capacity for independent living in people with dementia or mild cognitive impairment: an overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Author: Ahmet Begde1, Manisha Jain1, Eef Hogervorst1, Thomas Wilcockson1
1 School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK.
Conference/Journal: Aging Ment Health
Date published: 2021 Dec 24
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1080/13607863.2021.2019192. , Word Count: 240

To summarise existing systematic reviews which assessed the effects of physical exercise on activities of daily living, walking, balance and visual processing in people with dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

In this overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, seven electronic databases were searched to identify eligible reviews published between January 2015 and April 2021.

A total of 30 systematic reviews were identified and included in the overview. The most frequent type of exercise for the intervention group was multimodal exercises. Mind-body exercises, exergames, dance intervention and aerobic exercise were other exercise types. Most of the reviews reported that exercise is significantly effective for improving activities of daily living (SMD 95%CI, from 0.27 to 1.44), walking (SMD 95%CI, from 0.08 to 2.23), balance (SMD 95%CI, from 0.37 to 2.24) and visuospatial function (SMD 95%CI, from 0.16 to 0.51), which are among the most leading determinants of independent living in individuals with dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

Evidence has shown that exercise (especially multicomponent exercise programmes including cognitive, physical and multitasking exercises) with sufficient intensity improves the activities of daily living skills. Exercise also improves walking, balance and visual processing, which can provide a more independent life for people with dementia and mild cognitive impairment. Cognitively impaired people should therefore be encouraged to exercise regularly in order to be more independent.

Supplemental data for this article is available online at

Keywords: Exercise; activities of daily living; dementia; mild cognitive impairment; mobility; visual processing.

PMID: 34951548 DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2021.2019192