Fitness and Dementia

Alzheimer's Disease And Exercising

You know that exercise benefits the body, but medical research shows that exercising also benefits the brain and may help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s, and those in the early and moderate stages will benefit the most.

It is essential to introduce new things slowly and focus on making the activity fun. Several shorter sessions rather than one long session of exercises will have a higher likelihood of success.

We recommend 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week, But this amount of time might even be too long initially for some new to exercise or in later stages of dementia.  Try to break session into two or three sessions of ten or fifteen-minute increments. If this is too hard to fit into the schedule, sneak in 5 minutes where you can.  Having them involved in some physical activity, of any sort, is better than none at all.

Walking

and Hiking

Walking is going to be the most straightforward activity to talk your parents into as it is the easiest to accomplish, can be assisted with devices such as walkers and canes, it can be done anywhere and it is free. Distance, time spent walking, elevation gain, walking on various terrain are all variables that can be modified to increase or decrease the challenge. A scheduled daily walk could be a great add-on to a structured routine, important in those with memory deficits. A short walk could make a big difference, even if it is to walk to quick errands or grab a cup of coffee. Keep walking interesting by suggesting your loved one include listening to music, walking with a friend or walking a pet for increased engagement

 

People with Alzheimer’s will need supervision as pathfinding and returning to starting point could become impossible, placing the person in danger. Check with local senior and recreational centers to find organized and scheduled group walks.  This can also be beneficial for those caring for loved ones who have limited time or would like a small break. Organized walks can also provide a social outlet for the patient, a critical component of wellness.  

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swimming

Tai Chi

and swimming

Tai Chi and Qigong, increasingly popular in retirement communities, is a series of integrated exercises including simple movements, gentle stretches, and meditation, all appropriate for most loved ones. Tai Chi is very joint-friendly and low impact, helping maintain balance and strength, can be done anywhere such as home or at a park, and can help maintain memory as the movements are performed in a specific sequence.

Check with community, senior centers, and fitness centers near your loved one to see if these types of activities are offered; sometimes, they will even be partnered with Silver Sneakers!

Swimming is already a popular activity among those looking for a full-body fitness challenge while taking it easy on joints and pre-existing conditions. The variety of activities possible in a pool is enormous and being in this environment is very forgiving for those prone to losing balance. If a slip occurs, laugh off the extra water splash! Swimming is incredibly joint-friendly due to the buoyancy of the water, provides an excellent cardiovascular workout, and can provide calming effects to the participant.

Classes also have the benefit of providing a social outlet, which, is just as important as physical health!

These activities should be done under supervision for appropriate safety. If your loved one was not a swimmer, swimming should not be picked as an activity for someone with Alzheimer’s, as teaching a new skill can be challenging, depending on the stage of dementia your loved one is experiencing.

Yoga

and gardening

Like Tai Chi, Yoga is a great way to encourage your loved one to experience exercise. Yoga involves a series of specific movements that will help with flexibility, strength, balance, and memory. An American study has shown that those engaged in yoga had a better memory after three months of practice. All of this is encouraging, but it is essential to take the stage of Alzheimer’s that your loved one is experiencing into consideration. Assistance may be necessary depending on the unique case of your parent. Yoga is also beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety and can lift someone’s mood.

Gardening can be an excellent activity for your loved one with Alzheimer’s. It challenges the brain by requiring specific sequences of tasks and memory of plant needs. It combines tactile feedback with sequential activities, all resulting in a tremendous physical and mental challenge!

Additionally, it creates a sense of purpose; there is nothing more enjoyable than showing off your beautiful garden to those closest to you! It is worth noting that the physical abilities of your loved one should be taken into consideration. Mowing, raking, weeding, pruning, tending to flower beds are all examples of gardening activities that offer various physical challenges and help keep the body moving and healthy, as well as provide cardiovascular fitness.

 

Yoga

And Gardening

Like Tai Chi, Yoga is a great way to encourage your loved one to experience exercise. Yoga involves a series of specific movements that will help with flexibility, strength, balance, and memory. An American study has shown that those engaged in yoga had a better memory after three months of practice. All of this is encouraging, but it is essential to take the stage of Alzheimer’s that your loved one is experiencing into consideration. Assistance may be necessary depending on the unique case of your parent. Yoga is also beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety and can lift someone’s mood.

Gardening can be an excellent activity for your loved one with Alzheimer’s. It challenges the brain by requiring specific sequences of tasks and memory of plant needs. It combines tactile feedback with sequential activities, all resulting in a tremendous physical and mental challenge!

Additionally, it creates a sense of purpose; there is nothing more enjoyable than showing off your beautiful garden to those closest to you! It is worth noting that the physical abilities of your loved one should be taken into consideration. Mowing, raking, weeding, pruning, tending to flower beds are all examples of gardening activities that offer various physical challenges and help keep the body moving and healthy, as well as provide cardiovascular fitness.

Bowling

And biking

Just like dancing, bowling could be a social outlet and a great way to maintain mobility, flexibility, and strength. Many seniors will consider bowling more “fun” than exercise, which can help someone that has been relatively inactive. Many bowling lanes have senior hours, and some senior centers organize regular bowling sessions for people of all abilities.

Riding a bike can be an excellent way to get exercise while participating in an activity that feels fun! While a traditional bicycle may be concerning to provide a means of independent transportation to your loved one during this stage in their life. Instead, consider purchasing a recumbent or upright bicycle that can be placed in the home.

Dancing can also be a great way to involve your parent in more exercises, and they might not even realize they are exercising if they enjoyed dancing earlier in their life. Their level of function needs to be considered, but many loved ones struggling with memory loss can benefit from dancing activities even in the late stages of the disease. Dancing can be modified to a sitting position with a little imagination as well.

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Chair

and seated exercises

For a loved one that is not mobile enough for the previous activities, exercising in a chair is still beneficial.

There is a wide variety of activities that can be done while sitting, and they can provide the challenge that some loved ones need if their physical abilities are limited. A small pedal exerciser that can be used while seated in a chair. Some may enjoy moving to their favorite songs, while others may enjoy stretching. Tossing objects around, playing catch, and hand dexterity exercises are all great options.

Here are a few videos of chair exercises in action!

 

Most senior facilities and senior centers offer sitting exercise classes, and it may be helpful to attend a few to get some ideas! These classes follow a progression that will help increase strength and balance, as well as break up the monotony.  

 

We Can Help

Beverlys Daughter can help you add products to your loved one’s home to make their life easier.  Feel free to reach out with any questions or request for suggestions.

Pierre-Yves Butheau

Pierre-Yves Butheau

A native of France, Pierre obtained his Master in Physical Therapy in 2002. A Seattle resident since 2002, he has worked in multiple settings serving a geriatric population: outpatient clinic, skilled nursing facilities, home care and was also the rehabilitation director for a prominent West Seattle Retirement Community.

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