Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity Intervention on Improving Dementia Family Caregiver Physical Function: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Alzheimers Dis Parkinsonism. 2016 Aug;6(4):253. doi: 10.4172/2161-0460.1000253. Epub 2016 Aug 9.


Objective: Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) affect more than five million Americans and their family caregivers. Caregiving creates challenges, may contribute to decreased caregiver health and is associated with $9.7 billion of caregiver health care costs. The purpose of this 12 month randomized clinical trial (RCT) was to examine if the Enhancing Physical Activity Intervention (EPAI), a moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) treatment group, versus the Caregiver Skill Building Intervention (CSBI) control, would have greater: (1) MVPA adherence; and (2) physical function.

Methods: Caregivers were randomly assigned to EPAI or CSBI (N=211). MVPA was assessed using a self-report measure; and physical function was objectively assessed using two measures. Intention-to-treat analyses used descriptive, categorical and generalized estimating equations (GEE), with an exchangeable working correlation matrix and a log link, to examine main effects and interactions in change of MVPA and physical function over time.

Results: At 12 months, EPAI significantly increased MVPA (p=<0.001) and number of steps (p=< .01); maintained stable caregiving hours and use of formal services; while CSBI increased hours of caregiving (p=<0.001) and used more formal services (p=<0.02). Qualitative physical function data indicated that approximately 50% of caregivers had difficulties completing physical function tests.

Conclusion: The EPAI had a stronger 12 month effect on caregiver MVPA and physical function, as well as maintaining stability of caregiving hours and formal service use; while CSBI increased caregiving hours and use of formal services. A study limitation included greater EPAI versus CSBI attrition. Future directions are proposed for dementia family caregiver physical activity research.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; CHAMPS; Family caregiving; Senior physical fitness tests: 2 min step test and 30 s chair stand test.