The effectiveness of physical exercise interventions in the management of neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia patients: a systematic review

Komanthi Kouloutbani, Fotini Venetsanou, Alexandra Markati, Konstantinos E. Karteroliotis, Antonios Politis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The management of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) in patients with dementia is a major challenge. Since no effective therapy has been found to date and drug treatments are associated with significant side effects, there seems to be a pressing need for alternative non-pharmacological interventions. Objectives: The current study aims to investigate and compare the effect of different types of physical exercise on the NPS. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted according to the PRISMA guidelines. Five databases (SCOPUS, PubMed, SPORT Discus, Web of science and ScienceDirect) were searched using the appropriate algorithm. What was sought out was randomized control trials (RCTs) that applied physical activity interventions with specific characteristics (type, frequency, intensity, and duration) in patients with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, studied the effect of exercise on their NPS and compared this effect with a control group that did not follow an exercise program. Results: From 512 articles, 13 studies were included in this review, involving a total of 1,925 patients. The results were analyzed and synthesized according to the type of exercise applied – aerobic exercise, multidimensional interventions and muscular strength training programs. In particular, the results showed that repetitive aerobic exercise three to five times a week had a positive effect on NPS, whereas multidimensional interventions combining different types of exercise did not appear to be as effective. Strength training programs have been found to significantly reduce depression symptoms and behavioral problems in demented patients with mobility problems. Conclusions: There is clear evidence that physical activity and especially aerobic exercise may be effective in the management of NPS. However, it is necessary to apply specific practical recommendations and specially designed programs to incorporate physical exercise into the daily routine of these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-190
Number of pages14
JournalInternational psychogeriatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • dementia
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • neuropsychiatric symptoms
  • physical activity
  • psychosocial interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology


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