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BACKGROUND: Almost all of the 820,000 people in the UK with dementia will experience Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD). However, research has traditionally focused on treating cognitive symptoms, thus neglecting core clinical symptoms that often have a more profound impact on living with dementia. Recent evidence (Kales et al, 2007; Ballard et al, 2009) indicates that the popular approach to managing BPSD - prescription of anti-psychotic medication - can increase mortality and the risk of stroke in people with dementia as well as impair quality of life and accelerate cognitive decline. Consequently, there is a need to evaluate the impact that non-pharmacological interventions have on BPSD; we believe physical exercise is a particularly promising approach. METHODS/DESIGN: We will carry out a pragmatic, randomised, single-blind controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of exercise (planned walking) on the behavioural and psychological symptoms of individuals with dementia. We aim to recruit 146 people with dementia and their carers to be randomized into two groups; one will be trained in a structured, tailored walking programme, while the other will continue with treatment as usual. The primary outcome (BPSD) will be assessed with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) along with relevant secondary outcomes at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks. DISCUSSION: Designing this study has been challenging both ethically and methodologically. In particular to design an intervention that is simple, measurable, safe, non-invasive and enjoyable has been testing and has required a lot of thought. Throughout the design, we have attempted to balance methodological rigour with study feasibility. We will discuss the challenges that were faced and overcome in this paper. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN01423159.

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Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Caregivers, Dementia, Exercise Therapy, Humans, Neuropsychological Tests, Quality of Life, Research Design, Single-Blind Method, Walking