Preventing loss of independence through exercise (PLIÉ): a pilot clinical trial in older adults with dementia

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 11;10(2):e0113367. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113367. eCollection 2015.


Background: Current dementia medications have small effect sizes, many adverse effects and do not change the disease course. Therefore, it is critically important to study alternative treatment strategies. The goal of this study was to pilot-test a novel, integrative group exercise program for individuals with mild-to-moderate dementia called Preventing Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ), which focuses on training procedural memory for basic functional movements (e.g., sit-to-stand) while increasing mindful body awareness and facilitating social connection.

Methods: We performed a 36-week cross-over pilot clinical trial to compare PLIÉ with usual care (UC) at an adult day program for individuals with dementia in San Francisco, CA. Assessments of physical performance, cognitive function, physical function, dementia-related behaviors, quality of life and caregiver burden were performed by blinded assessors at baseline, 18 weeks (cross-over) and 36 weeks. Our primary outcomes were effect sizes based on between-group comparisons of change from baseline to 18 weeks; secondary outcomes were within-group comparisons of change before and after cross-over.

Results: Twelve individuals enrolled (7 PLIÉ, 5 UC) and 2 withdrew (1 PLIÉ, 18 weeks; 1 UC, 36 weeks). Participants were 82% women (mean age, 84 ± 4 years); caregivers were 82% daughters (mean age, 56 ± 13 years). Effect sizes were not statistically significant but suggested potentially clinically meaningful (≥ 0.25 SDs) improvement with PLIÉ versus UC for physical performance (Cohen's D: 0.34 SDs), cognitive function (0.76 SDs) and quality of life (0.83 SDs) as well as for caregiver measures of participant's quality of life (0.33 SDs) and caregiver burden (0.49 SDs). Results were similar when within-group comparisons were made before and after cross-over.

Conclusions: PLIÉ is a novel, integrative exercise program that shows promise for improving physical function, cognitive function, quality of life and caregiver burden in individuals with mild-to-moderate dementia. Larger randomized, controlled trials are warranted.

Trial registration: NCT01371214.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers
  • Cognition
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • San Francisco
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data


Grants and funding

Funding for this study was provided through a private donation to the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. The authors also note that the study funders were Drew and Ellen Bradley, who provided a grant for research related to integrative medicine and dementia to the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.