Holistic Mind-Body Program Helps People With Dementia

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Aug 13, 2014

Mind-Body-Spirit News

A unique holistic program that incorporated cognitive exercises with mind-body activities has helped to improve quality of life for a small group of patients with dementia.

Program developers from Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England, created “Happy Antics” to determine the feasibility and acceptance of a holistic exercise program among people with dementia. Holistic exercise is defined as the combination of physical exercise with a wellness approach that includes physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental and spiritual dimensions.

Lead study author Yvonne J-Lyn Khoo, PhD, a researcher from Teesside University, said to IDEA Fitness Journal, “I wanted to design a holistic exercise program that other people can use, such as residents of care homes who may not have dementia. Feasibility and acceptance may encourage expansion of the program.”

The Happy Antics program included cognitive and conventional exercises as well as tai chi, yoga, meditation, qigong, dance and mindfulness. “The idea was to make exercise interesting, stimulating and motivating for people with dementia,” said Khoo. Since balance is a safety concern with this population, Khoo included elements of tai chi, along with cognitive exercises and a short meditation, to make participation possible.

Fifteen people, including eight with early to middle-stage dementia, attended a 45-minute session once weekly for 6 weeks. At the end of 6 weeks, investigators interviewed subjects regarding their exercise experience. Study authors concluded that participants accepted holistic exercise, found it feasible, and appeared to benefit from it both psychologically and physically.

“My personal observation is that people with dementia seemed to enjoy the dance movement-based exercises more,” said Khoo. “Another interesting observation is the acceptance of meditation among those with dementia, since these people normally would not be able to concentrate for this amount of time.”

She concluded, “It is possible to do mind-body work with people with dementia. The key is deliverance, topped up with loving intentions. . . . The value of mind-body activities is that they connect the physical with the mental-emotional aspects in us—head, heart and hand. We are all unique souls with physical bodies. But we become complete when we do something with our heads, hearts and hands connected. This is achievable with mind-body activities.”

The study was published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2014; doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2014.02.008).

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at www.shirleyarcher.com.