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The Effects of Aerobic Exercise in Patients with Early-Onset Dementia: A Scoping Review

  • Roman de Mettelinge, Tine
  • Calders, Patrick
  • Cambier, Dirk
Published Article
Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
S. Karger AG
Publication Date
May 06, 2021
DOI: 10.1159/000516231
PMID: 33957623
  • Review Article
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Background: Early-onset dementia (EOD) defines all dementia related conditions with an onset before the age of 65 years. EOD places a large and distressing psychological, emotional and financial burden on the individuals themselves and their caregivers. For various reasons, diagnostic and treatment strategies for EOD are very challenging. There is a general agreement that not only the human body but also the mind benefits from physical activity and/or exercise. Especially aerobic exercise has shown to have favorable effects on cognitive functions in healthy older adults, as well as in patients with MCI and dementia. However, there are major differences in age, physical fitness level and clinical presentation between EOD and late-onset dementia. Therefore, one cannot just assume that the same type and intensity of exercise will lead to similar effects in the former population. By conducting this scoping review, the authors aimed to identify the evidence on the effectiveness of aerobic exercise on physical and mental health outcomes in individuals with EOD, display gaps in this context, and formulate related directions for future research. Summary: There are a number of reasons to assume that aerobic exercise might be extremely valuable within individuals with EOD. However, this scoping review led to the surprising and striking finding that not a single study so far has investigated the effects of physical exercise on cognition, physical performance and feelings of well-being and quality of life in EOD. Although nowadays the disease is increasingly recognized, coping and (non-pharmacological) treatment strategies for EOD are virtually non-existent. Key Messages: Exercise intervention studies in EOD are lacking. With this scoping review the authors hope to inspire researchers in the field for related directions for future research. The potential beneficial effects of aerobic exercise in individuals with EOD should be explored and assessed extensively. Secondarily, decent guidelines for non-pharmacological treatment and coping strategies should be developed, with the aim of supporting people with EOD and their caregivers.

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