A new study, published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, suggests that patients with dementia can benefit from a holistic exercise program.
By combining the elements of yoga, tai chi, qigong and meditation, researchers from Teesside University in the U.K. helped dementia patients improve memory recall in certain areas and enjoy themselves as well.
For the study, fifteen dementia patients (ages 52 to 86), five caregivers, and two volunteers participated in the ‘Happy Antics’ program — a holistic exercise class that targets the whole patient: emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually. The classes began with mental activities followed by a holistic exercise program with elements of tai chi, yoga, qigong, and dance. The class ended with a guided meditation that focused on breathing and mindful awareness.
All participants reported that they enjoyed the classes and looked forward to them. They also felt like the sessions offered social benefits. Some patients reported feeling greater relaxation and pain relief. For some participants, the exercises felt “empowering.”
By the sixth session, even though dementia patients could not remember what had occurred during the previous class, six participants were able to anticipate the physical movements that went along with specific music. Three patients remembered the whole sequence, said researcher Yvonne J-Lyn Khoo, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, of the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University.
This suggests that a holistic exercise program has the potential to help maintain procedural memory — a type of automatic memory created through repetition.
Overall, the holistic exercise program was able to stimulate and engage dementia patients, provide a positive, social learning environment and offer potential psychological benefits as well, said Khoo.
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