OBJECTIVES: To evaluate whether a high-intensity functional weight-bearing exercise program reduces dependency in activities of daily living (ADLs) in older people living in residential care facilities, focusing on people with dementia.
DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trial.
SETTING: Nine residential care facilities.
PARTICIPANTS: One hundred ninety-one older people dependent in ADLs and with a Mini-Mental State Examination score of 10 or greater. One hundred (52.4%) of the participants had dementia.
INTERVENTION: A high-intensity functional weight-bearing exercise program or a control activity consisting of 29 sessions over 3 months.
MEASUREMENTS: The Barthel ADL Index; follow-up at 3 months (directly after the intervention) and 6 months with intention-to-treat analyses.
RESULTS: There were no statistically significant differences between the groups regarding overall ADL performance. Analyses for each item revealed that a smaller proportion of participants in the exercise group had deteriorated in indoor mobility at 3 months (exercise 3.5% vs control 16.0%, P=.01) and 6 months (7.7% vs 19.8%, P=.03). For people with dementia, there was a significant difference in overall ADL performance in favor of the exercise group at 3 months (mean difference 1.1, P=.03) but not at 6 months.
CONCLUSION: A high-intensity functional weight-bearing exercise program seems to reduce ADL decline related to indoor mobility for older people living in residential care facilities. The program does not appear to have an overall effect on ADLs. In people with dementia, the exercise program may prevent decline in overall ADL performance, but continuous training may be needed to maintain that effect.