Physical activity in people with dementia


Background: Despite public focus on the importance of physical activity and findings showing the benefits of such activity, research has shown that people with dementia are less physically active and have more sedentary behaviour compared to others in similar age groups. In Norway, there is a focus on day care services as a means to allow people with dementia to experience social, physical and cultural activities. Farm based services have been highlighted as an innovative and customized day care service, but little research has been done on physical activity and such services. This study therefor aims to investigate the potential of farm-based day care services as services that can promote physical activity for people with dementia.

Methods: Actigraphy data from people with dementia attending farm-based day care services (n = 29) and people with dementia attending regular day care services (n = 107) was used to assess levels of physical activity in each group and to compare the two groups.

Results: People attending farm-based day care had significantly higher levels of moderate activity, approximately 23 min each day, compared with persons attending ordinary day care (p = 0.048). Time spent in sedentary or light activity were similar for both groups. For the group attending farm-based day care services, days at the service, were significantly associated with less time spent in sedentary activity (p = 0.012) and more time spent in light (p < 0.001) and moderate activity (p = 0.032), and in taking more steps (p = 0.005) compared to days not at the service.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that participants in farm-based day care for people with dementia have higher levels of physical activity compared to ordinary day care and that farm-based day care increases levels of physical activity for its attendees. Farm based day care services has the potential to help their participants reach or maintain recommended levels of physical activity. Further research is needed to investigate what facilitates this increase in activity and how such knowledge could be used in all types of day care services.