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The effectiveness of structured physical activity on agitation in people with dementia: a rapid review

McCartney, A., Crosswell, J., Rafnsson, S. B. & Hoe, J. ORCID: 0000-0003-4647-8950 (2024). The effectiveness of structured physical activity on agitation in people with dementia: a rapid review. Aging & Mental Health, doi: 10.1080/13607863.2024.2345129


Objectives Managing agitation and other behaviours that challenge is a significant dementia care challenge. The priority is to find effective non-pharmacological interventions as drug treatments can have significant side effects. This review evaluates the effectiveness of structured physical activity on agitation in dementia.

Methods Our rapid review searched four electronic databases, Cochrane CENTRAL, MEDLINE, CINAHL and Embase, for interventional studies using a structured physical activity programme in people with dementia and studied the effect of this activity on behaviours that challenge. Study quality was assessed using CASP criteria and data was narratively synthesised.

Results We included 13 studies in this review (four rated as high quality), involving a total of 1546 participants. Results were analysed according to exercise type, frequency and intensity of the intervention. Exercise is effective in reducing agitation and studies with higher adherence to exercise demonstrated more positive effects on agitation and behaviours that challenge.

Conclusions Physical activity can be effective in reducing agitation in older adults with dementia. Further research is needed to clarify the type of intervention that is most beneficial. Strategies to make physical activity more acceptable and available to people with dementia need to be established.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Aging and Mental Health on 29 April 2024, available at:
Publisher Keywords: dementia, behaviours that challenge, agitation, physical activity, exercise
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Manuscript v7 with author_accepted.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 29 April 2025 due to copyright restrictions.


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