BACKGROUND: This scoping study aimed to identify how physical activity may benefit people with dementia; how and/or if current service provide these benefits; and what support they need to do so.
METHODS: Methods included an evidence review using literature; mapping current service provision through a survey; and in-depth interviews with a sample of service providers.
RESULTS: The 26 studies included in the review indicated the potential effectiveness of physical activity for people with dementia, including improvements in cognition and mood, behaviour and physical condition. Mechanisms of action and the link with outcomes were poorly defined and implemented.The mapping survey and related interviews showed that service providers were delivering a range of services broadly consistent with the scientific evidence. They tended to take a holistic view of possible benefits, and focused on enjoyment and well-being, more than specific cognitive, physical and behavioural outcomes highlighted in literature. Service providers needed more evidence based information and resources to develop services and realise their potential.
CONCLUSION: Despite potential benefits demonstrated in literature and practice, there is a need for further research to optimise interventions and to consider some neglected issues including delivery at home and in communities; impacts for carers; physical activities through ADLs; and individual needs. Studies are needed which take a more holistic approach to the effects of physical activity, and outcomes should be broader and include mental health and wellbeing.