Resistance Training for Adults with Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias: Feasibility of Program Implementation, Appropriateness of Participant Engagement, and Effects on Physical Performance and Quality of Life

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Virginia Tech


Coupled with normal age-related regression in muscle mass, adults with cognitive impairment are at high risk for exacerbated declines in muscle strength, associated psychological well-being, and overall independence. Working from the environmental press model, a 12-week strength training intervention was designed to both support participants' continuing abilities and meet varied needs. Tailoring the environment helps optimize participation, which is essential if participants are to experience the greatest possible gains from a group-based exercise program.

The intervention was a group-based, progressive strength training program designed specifically for adults with dementia at two dementia care centers. The exercises were performed three times each week and the sessions were led by the centers' activities leaders. Participants used hand-held barbells when performing the upper-body exercises.

Findings indicated that individuals retain the capability to enhance their own quality of life through active participation in a therapeutic intervention. This is illustrated by the consistent effort of exercising participants to perform appropriately during the exercise intervention. Not only were adults able to demonstrate effort to appropriately participate, but the intervention supported high levels of correct performance of the exercise repetitions which is important for achieving physical gains. Exercisers did not experience improvement in physical abilities nor did they significantly differ at posttest from non-exercising participants in measures of physical ability and function or quality of life. The program was deemed to be a feasible intervention for adults with dementia as indicated by both regular participant attendance at the program sessions and high levels of effort to engage appropriately in the exercises.

Due to the lack of opportunities for adults with dementia to participate in stimulating or meaningful activities, and the individuals' susceptibility to excess disability, the strength training program is a viable intervention to incorporate into the regular activities programming at dementia care centers. Future research should utilize the progress made by this study to continue exploring the environmental variables that most greatly affect the participation of adults with dementia, as well as outcome measurements that best capture important effects of participation in exercise for these individuals.



Alzheimer's disease, resistance training, engagement, disability, environmental press