A systematic review of the effects of physical activity on physical functioning, quality of life and depression in older people with dementia




Depression is common in older people with dementia. Physical activity is effective in reducing depression in adults but there is limited evidence about its effectiveness in people with dementia.

Design and Methods

A systematic review and partial meta-analysis of physical activity interventions in people with dementia is reported. We searched eight databases for English language papers and reference lists of relevant papers. Included studies reported a physical activity intervention lasting at least 12 weeks in which participants were older and had a diagnosis of dementia. Studies compared the intervention with a non-active or a no-intervention control and reported at least one outcome related to physical function, quality of life or depression. At least two authors independently assessed each paper for inclusion and for study quality and extracted data.


We included 13 randomised controlled trials with 896 participants. Three of six trials that reported walking as an outcome found an improvement, as did four of the five trials reporting timed get up and go tests. Only one of the four trials that reported depression as an outcome found a positive effect. Both trials that reported quality of life found an improvement.


There is some evidence that physical activity interventions improve physical function in older people with dementia. Evidence for an effect on depression and quality of life is limited. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.