Exercise is essential at every stage in life. While the amount and type of fitness activities you engage in might need to be modified as you grow older, exercising has many benefits. Those include helping people maintain a healthy weight, reducing anxiety, promoting better quality sleep, and boosting mood.
If you or a loved one has dementia, exercise also offers additional benefits for the body and mind. Early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease, for example, often causes low energy, problems with coordination, balance issues, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Regular exercise helps combat the negative impact of each.
The Therapeutic Value of Exercise
According to WebMD, “repetitive exercises such as walking, indoor bicycling, and even tasks such as folding laundry may lower anxiety in people with the disease because they don’t have to make decisions or remember what to do next. They also can feel good knowing that they’ve accomplished something when they’re finished.”
Research from the Wake Forest School of Medicine highlights even more benefits. They found that physical activity also has a positive impact on the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Those enrolled in the trial had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or diabetes, which is thought to raise the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Some participants worked out at community gyms for an hour of aerobic activity or stretching exercise four times a week for six months. All were supervised during these activities.
At the end of the study, researchers had determined that “exercisers had better blood flow in the memory and processing centers of their brains and had measurable improvement in attention, planning, and organizing abilities referred to as executive function.”
If you are the family caregiver or adult child of a senior with dementia, you might be wondering what type of exercises are best. We have a few suggestions for you to review with your loved one’s primary care physician.
4 Safe Exercises for Adults with Dementia
- Walking: Walking 30 minutes a day is good for most adults with dementia. Finding a safe and scenic place where you can walk together can give you both a mental and physical boost. If 30 minutes is too much to start, break it up into several mini-sessions a day instead. You might feel safer if you purchase a GPS tracking device for your loved one to wear when you are walking outdoors.
- Practicing chair yoga: The combination of stretching and breathing exercises at the core of yoga is great for improving flexibility, coordination, balance, and relaxation. For adults with dementia, chair yoga might be an option. Through a series of yoga poses performed from a seated position, participants can feel successful while also reaping the health benefits of yoga. It’s also been proven to improve balance for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Pedaling on a recumbent bike: Simple, repetitive movements are ideal for people living with memory impairment. A recumbent bike is usually safest. In addition to the ease of the motion, riding a bike gets the heart pumping and muscles working.
- Weights or resistance bands: Weight training helps keep muscles strong and joints limber. It also combats bone loss as you grow older. Lifting weights and using resistance bands are two ways people with dementia can do that. People with dementia should lift weights only under supervision.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the value of exercise for residents in independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Our communities offer daily fitness opportunities ranging from stretching classes to bocce ball. For more information on specialized dementia care, please call the Heritage community nearest you today!