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Aquatic exercise for residential aged care adults with dementia: benefits and barriers to participation

Contact Information


Timothy Henwood

aquatic exercise; dementia; functional performance psychological well-being; residential aged care.


Background: Pilot work by our group has demonstrated that aquatic exercise has valuable functional and psychosocial benefits for adults living in the residential aged care setting with dementia. The aim of the currents study was to advance this work by delivering the Watermemories Swimming Club aquatic exercise program to a more representative population of older, institutionalized adults with dementia. Methods: The benefits of 12 weeks of twice weekly participation in the Watermemories Swimming Club aquatic exercise program were assessed among an exercise and usual care control group of residential aged care adults with advanced dementia. A battery of physical and psychosocial measures were collected before and after the intervention period, and program implementation was also investigated. Results: Seven residential aged care facilities of 24 approached, agreed to participate and 56 residents were purposefully allocated to exercise or control. Twenty-three participants per group were included in the final analysis. Both groups experienced decreases in skeletal muscle index and lean mass (p < 0.001), but exercise stifled losses in muscle strength and transition into sarcopenic. Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and activities of daily living approached significance (p = 0.06) with positive trends observed across other psychosocial measures. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the value of exercise participation, and specifically aquatic exercise in comparison to usual care for older, institutionalized adults with advanced dementia. However, it also highlights a number of barriers to participation. To overcome these barriers and ensure opportunity to residents increased provider and sector support is required.


Henwood, T., Neville, C., Baguley, C., & Beattie, E. (2017). Aquatic exercise for residential aged care adults with dementia: benefits and barriers to participation. International psychogeriatrics, 29(9), 1439–1449.





Conent Area

Timothy Henwood

EWB-Related Construct

(4) quality of life
(2)Life Satisfaction

Study Design

Species or Study Population

(5) RCT

Sex (%Female)


Age (Mean, SD)

82.4, 6.6

Younger Controls?


Longitudinal Data?


Sample Size



Aquatic exercise

Ethnicity (%white)

not stated (Australia)

Inclusion Criteria

Inclusion criteria for the study were a past history of swimming, residing in a residential aged care facility (low or high care), with a diagnosis of dementia, able to walk a minimum of 10 m self-ambulating or with a walking cane or wheelie walker, and able to gain substitute decision maker consent/

Exclusion Criteria

Residents were excluded if they had an unstable or terminal illness, were wheel chair or bed bound, had dangerous or unpredictable behaviors, had a pacemaker, and were taking medications contradictory to exercise.

EWB Measures

Psychological Well-Being in Cognitively Impaired Persons (Burgener et al., Reference Burgener, Jirovec, Murrell and Barton1992)

Non-EWB Behavioral

Revised Memory and Behavioral Problem Checklist
Cornell scale for depression in dementia
Geriatric anxiety inventory
Activities of daily living scale
Grip strength
Short Physical Performance Battery
Bioelectrical impendence analysis
Balance Outcome Measure for Elder Rehabilitation

Physiological Measures


Brain IMaging Modality

Brain IMaging Paradigm


Brain Region/Circuit


Biological Measures


Other Neural Measures

Data Availability?


Data Avalability Details


Diagnostic Measures

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