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TALKBACK katie barnes • assistant editor • health club management
everyone’s talking about . . .
tackling dementia
Exercise has been shown to help people with mild dementia. Given the UK’s ageing population,
could the fitness industry have a role to play in helping people who suffer from this disease?
here are 700,000 people can totally fail for people with dementia, years, and has also been able to cut the
with dementia in the UK; the capacity to feel remains strong… incidence of Alzheimer’s in half.
Alzheimer’s (the most Why then do we so often leave them in Meanwhile, a study on exercise and
common form) affects soulless rooms, bored, with nothing to people with memory problems by the
417,000 people. By 2025, the number of do and little personal contact?” University of Melbourne found that
people living with dementia will soar to Evidence suggests that exercise can “the benefi ts of physical activity were
one million. By 2050 it will be 1.7 million. help calm people with a mild form of apparent after six months and persisted
In December, businessman Sir Gerry dementia, as well as improve the way for at least another 12 months after the
Robinson featured in a BBC 2 series they eat and sleep. It may even help to intervention had been discontinued”
called: Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia delay the progression of the disease. (see HCM April 09, p44).
Care Homes? More than 60 per cent of Dr John Ratey, in his book SPARK (see Given all of this, is there a role for
care home residents aged over 65 have a HCM July 09, p42), pulls together the fi tness industry to tackle dementia
form of dementia, and Robinson’s mission evidence from the past 10 years which in the UK? Would it be possible to
was to try to introduce some changes. In highlights the power of exercise on work together with care homes or
an article for the Radio Times he wrote: the brain. For example, says Ratey, other institutions such as the NHS?
“It is widely accepted that, although the exercise has been shown to delay If so, how could such a partnership
ability to memorise or record something cognitive decline by as much as 10–15 work? We ask the experts.
tony majakas sir gerry robinson
vice-president of health development • technogym businessman
wo years ago, we installed an
Easy Line circuit – comprising “Y
ou can’t reverse dementia, but
you can delay its progression
eight resistance machines – in a room by keeping people active. I’ve seen that
in the Redholme Memory Care home in a simple daily task such as getting up to
Liverpool. The Easy Line is simple to use, put out washing, or going a walk, can lift
so we could train occupational health the spirits. Even if you can’t pinpoint the
nurses and all care home staff – even the change, there’s no doubt that patients
DIY man. As the resistance comes from come back more animated and connected.
a hydraulic cylinder, it’s also safe to use. One home, Merivale [in the Midlands],
Around 20 care home residents took part in, at most, a shone through [in my documentary]. It was excellent at
30-minute session up to three times a week. Since then, there engaging people in physical and mental activity. Unfortunately,
has been a 20 per cent reduction in falls – and, where a fall has I suspect that, in the majority of homes, it’s easier to leave
occurred, it’s only been a minor one with no bones broken. residents sitting around: there’s a very high acceptance of this.
There’s also been a reduction in medication, as well as notable I’m certain that any involvement from the fitness industry
improvements in mood: residents are not as aggressive, because could be helpful. I see a direct correlation between keeping the
they’ve been stimulated. Normally, dementia patients lose body and the mind in good shape. Some interesting experimental
concentration when they eat and often wander off in meal work could be done to connect physical activity to wellbeing.
times. However, we found eating patterns improved because the Putting in equipment could also have an enormous impact
activity made them more alert and brought them consistency. on a large number of people. As with most things, you’d need
Our next aim is to gather structured evidence of these findings. to ensure people were helped to use it in a sensible way, but
Only then will the medical industry accept that the fitness sector with some [milder] levels of dementia, physical activity would
has a role to play in tackling dementia. There are 21,000 UK care definitely be possible and beneficial. With other [more advanced]
homes, each of which can benefit from structured exercise.

levels, however, it might be more difficult to organise.

28 Read Health Club Management online february 2010 © cybertrek 2010
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