Supervised exercise to reduce agitation in severely cognitively impaired persons

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2009 May;10(4):271-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2008.12.053. Epub 2009 Mar 28.


Background: Several studies have shown an improvement in depression, activities of daily living, and agitation in cognitively impaired subjects who undergo a long-term exercise program. These studies have not considered the short-term effects of exercise.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the short-term effects of a limited, supervised exercise program on agitation, depression, and activities of daily living in cognitively impaired patients residing in the special needs unit of a nursing home.

Methods: This study was a prospective comparative study. A 3-week exercise program was implemented at the special needs units of 2 nursing homes. The exercise program involved 30 minutes of exercise (15 minutes of aerobic and 15 minutes of resistance), 3 days per week. There were 50 residents in this study (76% female, 24% male) and they had a mean age of 79.2 +/- 9.7 years. The subjects had a mean SLUMS (Saint Louis Mental Status Examination) score of 1.5 +/- 2.1 (SLUM score range 0-30, 30 meaning full cognitive faculty). Each subject had his or her depression, agitation, activities of daily living, and 6-meter walk time measured before and after the 3-week exercise program. The Cornell Scale for Depression, Pittsburgh Agitation Scale (PAS)/Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory, and ADCS-ADL (Alzheimer's disease cooperative study-activities of daily living) were used to measure depression, agitation, and activities of daily living, respectively. Multiple paired t tests were calculated for each outcome measurement.

Results: The post-study scales showed an improvement in the 6-meter walk test and, using the PAS (0-16, 0 meaning no agitation), an improvement in agitation. The improvement in agitation in the entire population was P less than .05; mean PAS pre-study scores were 5.8 +/- 4.8 and mean PAS poststudy scores were 4.5 +/- 3.7 . Among the patients with PAS Pre-Exercise Program Scores greater than 3, thus categorized as agitated, there was a greater decrease in agitation; PAS Pre-Study Scores were 9.1 +/- 3.4 and PAS Study Scores were 6.1 +/- 3.4 (P < .001). There was also an improvement in 6-meter walk times; pre-study times were 12.5 +/- 5.2 and post-exercise program times were 10.1 +/- 4.4 (P < .001).

Conclusion: There was an improvement in agitation scores and the 6-meter walk times in the subjects after their engagement in the 3-week exercise program. Further study is needed in order to expand on these results.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Missouri
  • Nursing Homes
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychomotor Agitation / physiopathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors