Physical Exercise for People with Dementia and Alzheimer’s

alzheimer's disease physical exercise

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A growing body of research shows exercise has health and lifespan advantages for people of all ages. People living with dementia, in particular, might benefit from a regular fitness routine, particularly when it comes to cognitive functioning. In addition, they might benefit from various activities based on their preferences and physical capabilities.

Daily exercise enhanced mental function by 30% over a year in women with dementia with an average age of 80, according to a 2008 research published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. It also improved their ability to eat, bathe, and dress. In the research, the control group did not receive any of the benefits that the exercise group did.

Physical activity is important for ensuring consistent blood flow to the brain, and it may also support the creation and survival of new brain cells.

This blog discusses how physical activity can help people lower their risk of dementia and provide benefits to those who already have it. And the right kind of exercises for people living with dementia.

How Can Exercise Aid in Dementia Prevention?

Physical exercise’s ability to lower dementia risk is still being researched. While there isn’t conclusive evidence yet from randomized trials, considerable research has indicated that physical exercise in early, middle, and late life is linked to a decreased risk of cognitive dysfunction.

When additional characteristics linked to dementia risk are taken into account, the advantages of exercise become evident. For example, people who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to acquire heart disease or stroke, both of which are associated with a greater risk of dementia. Exercise aids in reducing the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and weight gain, which are all significant risk factors for dementia.

Several prospective studies (those that track large groups of people over time) have discovered that high activity levels are linked to reduced cognitive deterioration in the elderly. In addition, according to other research, people who exercise have delayed brain tissue loss with age.

Regular aerobic activity, such as half an hour of walking, has been shown to be beneficial to cognitive health. Although the exact reason for this is unknown, exercise is supposed to enhance blood circulation to the brain, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, and maybe boost nerve cell development and survival.

Best Exercises For People Living With Dementia

Best Exercises For People Living With Dementia

It may be difficult to start an exercise regimen with a person living with dementia, particularly if they did not exercise before their condition. However, by progressively incorporating safe, uncomplicated, and adaptable workouts into their everyday routine, the advantages will gradually grow and accumulate, resulting in an overall improvement in their well-being.

It is critical to participate in various exercises, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, balancing, and flexibility exercises.

1. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is described as a moderate-intensity exercise conducted over a lengthy period. It improves general physical wellbeing by increasing blood flow to the brain. As your fitness improves, you can progressively increase the amount of time you spend exercising, although at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days is suggested. They have machines like a UBE bike or nustep that you can sit and perform upper body and lower body exercise on. Other activities include brisk walking or dancing.

2. Resistance Training

Weight training, often known as resistance training, involves working muscles against an external force that resists movement. Muscular, ligament, and tendon strength, as well as bone mass, mobility, tone, metabolic activity, and postural support, are all advantages of strength training. Rubber ball squeezing, stretchy resistance bands, and weight lifting are all examples of resistance training.

3. Balancing and Flexibility

Flexibility and balancing exercises increase coordination and balance while strengthening the spine and aiding muscles. These activities can be added to an aerobic workout routine. In addition, flexibility and balance may be improved by exercises such as stretching and bending, tai chi, yoga, and pilates.

Types of Exercises For People Living With Dementia

Types of Exercises For People Living With Dementia

You may be thinking about what types of exercises are appropriate if you are a caregiver or have a parent with dementia. We’ve compiled a list of recommendations for you to discuss with your loved one’s primary care physician.

1. Walking

Walking 30-45 minutes a day can have the intended impact. However, if continuous exercise is too difficult at first, divide the walking into mini-sessions.

2. Stationary Bike

For people with memory problems, easy, repeated movements are best. The most secure form of exercise is generally a recumbent bike. Riding a bike keeps the heart beating and muscles engaged and is a simple activity.

3. Chair Yoga

Yoga’s core stretches and breathing techniques are excellent for increasing flexibility, balance, coordination, and stress relief. Chair yoga may be an alternative for people living with dementia. Participants may feel accomplished while also enjoying the therapeutic benefits of yoga by doing a sequence of yoga positions from a sitting position. It’s also been shown to help persons with Alzheimer’s disease maintain their balance.

4. Lifting Weights

Strengthening muscles and limbering joints are two benefits of weight training. It also helps to prevent bone loss when you get older. Weight lifting or using elastic bands can help people with dementia accomplish this. Lifting weights should only be done under supervision.

5. Gardening

Gardening is both calming and exciting, despite the fact that it may be a rather demanding hobby that gives good exercise. People living with dementia or Alzheimer’s benefit greatly from fenced therapeutic gardens. Raking leaves or uprooting weeds provides a sense of achievement while also providing a good exercise. Always take into consideration the person living with dementia’s ability & safety when introducing tasks like this.

6. Water Workouts

Water’s buoyancy makes it an excellent low-impact setting for dementia exercises while still offering the high resistance needed to build muscle. Senior centers, YMCAs, and gyms in the region may provide activities for seniors; ask whether caregivers are welcome to join as well.

7. Household Chores

People living with dementia might benefit from playing a more active part in the household. For example, cleaning, hanging laundry to dry, and washing the car are all activities that keep them engaged and their muscles and joints working.

8. Dancing

This hobby may provide mental stimulation and an enjoyable party environment. Dances are commonly held in senior centers and groups and at your local dance studio. This is another pastime that both the person living with dementia and the caregiver will appreciate.

Benefits Of Exercise For People Living With Dementia

Physical activity should be continued as long as feasible for those with dementia since it has been shown to have several advantages. It can help in the prevention of muscular atrophy, mobility issues, and other health issues linked to inactivity. In addition, it can aid in the promotion of a regular day-night rhythm and boost mood and social involvement.

Exercise can also help them cope with stress and sadness, which are typical side effects. In addition, people living with dementia might benefit from repetitive activities like walking or riding a stationary bike since there are no choices to be made or things to be remembered about what to do next.

Early in the course of dementia, an exercise program introduced into a person’s lifestyle is more likely to be continued as the disease develops, extending the health and well-being advantages for as long as feasible.

Support and encouragement from family, carers, and service providers are critical in the middle to later stages of dementia in order to sustain an exercise program. This can be achieved by participating in an organized fitness program led by trainers, including family, friends, and community members.

Aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility and balance activities should all be included in the program.

The advantages of exercise differ from person to person. However, staying active benefits one’s health and well-being in a variety of ways, including:

  • Fewer bouts of aggression, wandering, or agitation
  • Stress reduction
  • Better mood
  • Enhanced physical capacity
  • Improved balance and coordination reduce fall risk
  • Depression alleviation
  • Strengthening cardiovascular health
  • Remaining involved and occupied while gaining a sense of purpose and achievement
  • Boosting sleep and minimizing symptoms of sundowning
  • Constipation relief

These perks help prevent and control behavioral issues, including anxiety, sundowning, sleep disturbances, and more.

Of course, before beginning any workout program, you should always check with your doctor, especially if you have additional ailments or impairments to consider.

Bottom Line

Warming up and cooling down are also crucial before and after exercise. Warming up helps in the preparation of the heart and lungs for action, while cooling down aids in the recovery process. Warm-up and cool-down routines can also include stretching. Stretching facilitates the maintenance of joint flexibility.

It is critical to find fun and sustainable activities, meaning that a person can commit to them for an extensive period. Personalizing training regimens may take some time, but it is successful in the long run. It’s vital to stick to a regular exercise routine since the advantages of any fitness program go away when you stop doing it.

Exercise is an effective non-drug option for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia to improve their well-being and reduce undesirable behaviors.

The essential thing is to choose workouts that they will love and that are appropriate for their skill level.

Exercising is a good strategy to lower the risk of falling and can also help you feel better.

Sleep, endurance, mobility, and circulation are all improved by being active. It’s also a fantastic technique to improve one’s happiness and self-esteem.


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