Purpose: The aim was to assess the health-related quality of life and physical fitness of women who care for a relative with dementia compared with an age-matched group of noncaregiver women, for the purpose of designing adequate physical exercise programs.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in Extremadura, Spain, with 54 caregivers and 56 noncaregivers who were assessed by the SF-36 questionnaire and a battery of fitness tests.
Results: The reported mental health (mental, emotional role, and social categories of SF-36) of the carers was 22% lower than that of the noncaregivers, but both groups were similar in physical health. On the whole, the reported general health of the carers was 11% lower than that of the noncarers. In fitness outcomes, caregivers had better scores in body composition, bimanual strength, and leg strength but lower scores in the endurance capacity of the trunk extensor muscles.
Conclusion: Relative to the standard exercise programs of the general population, exercise programs for female caregivers should be more focused on preventing back pain by developing the endurance strength of the trunk extensors. A supervised exercise program including the interaction between caregiver and health professional could also help to minimize the psychosocial components that affect the health-related quality of life.