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Exercise Reduces Caregiver’s Burden in Dementia Care

New exercise program does not only help patients

April 9, 2020
Cologne, Germany – Exercise in older adults, even at an advanced stage of dementia, is an important strategy to maintain independence in everyday living and to promote quality of life. The research group "geriatric psychiatry in motion" of the German Sport University Cologne and the LVR-Hospital Cologne develop and evaluate exercise programs for geriatric mental health care. Latest results from a study in acute dementia care indicate a special exercise program is not only effective for the patients themselves, but also reduces the professional caregiver’s burden caused by neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Short-bout exercise sessions of 20 minutes several times per day are key aspects of this ‘exercise-carrousel’ – a new exercise program specially tailored for patients suffering from dementia, which has been developed and evaluated at the LVR-Hospital in Cologne. Throughout the day, the exercises are applied in small groups of patients – twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon. “With these recurrent activity and rest periods, we are not only trying to increase physical activity, but also aiming at stabilizing their day-night rhythm,” highlights Dr. Tim Fleiner, head of the research group. The novel exercise approach is feasible in the clinical setting – more than half of the patients are physically active for over 150 minutes per week, thus meeting the recommendation for healthy older adults despite suffering from dementia.

With the same level of psychotropic medication, the patients show clinically relevant improvements in neuropsychiatric symptoms compared to a control group – in particular agitated behavior and lability improved.

As a special side effect, recently published findings in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease show important improvements in the patient’s environment: participating in the exercise-carrousel reduces the perceived burden of the patient’s caregivers. “Reducing the burden of the patient’s caregivers and their relatives is a key aspect in dementia care. That we can achieve an improvement for the patient and his/her environment through a special exercise program is novel and important for the health care of older people,” states Dr. Peter Haussermann, head physician of the Department of Geriatric Psychiatry at the LVR-Hospital Cologne.


Full study: “A Structured Physical Exercise Program Reduces Professional Caregiver’s Burden Caused by Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Acute Dementia Care: Randomized Controlled Trial Results” by T Fleiner, H Dauth, W Zijlstra, and P Haussermann (DOI: 10.3233/JAD-191102) published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in Volume 74, Issue 2 (2020). It is available at:

Dr. Tim Fleiner
Institute of Movement and Sport Gerontology
+49 221 4982 6144

About the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Now in its 23rd year of publication, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD) is an international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment, and psychology of Alzheimer’s disease. The journal publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, book reviews, and letters-to-the-editor. Groundbreaking research that has appeared in the journal includes novel therapeutic targets, mechanisms of disease, and clinical trial outcomes. JAD has a Journal Impact Factor of 3.517 according to Journal Citation Reports (Web of Science Group, 2019) and is published by IOS Press.