Alzheimer’s and Exercise: How Physical Activity Can Benefit Your Loved One

We’ve often heard it said that regular exercise is good for the mind, body and soul. According to experts at The Mayo Clinic, physical activity also provides tangible benefits to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Improving Strength, Balance, Function and Emotional Well-Being

The primary benefits of exercise include improved strength, balance and cardiovascular health. Researchers also believe that physical activity may slow the progression of impaired thinking in people with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression, help retain motor skills and create a calming effect that reduces agitation.

In the article, “Why and How to Encourage Exercise for Someone with Dementia” author Paula Spencer Scott enumerates the many positive benefits of physical activity and provides insights into the value of each. Her key reasons for promoting exercise and physical activity for loved ones with memory loss include:

  • Improving physical function – Movement aids flexibility and strength. One study found that women with dementia (average age 80) who exercised three times a week were better able to feed, dress and bathe themselves than a control group of those with dementia who did not exercise.
  • Reducing stress, elevating mood and promoting calm – Moving the body during the day helps to decrease incidents of aggression and agitation. Exercise can also help reduce the effects of depression, which is common in people with dementia.
  • Improving overall cardiovascular health – Medical science tells us there isa connection between heart health, blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease. The protective benefits of exercise likewise apply to those with memory loss.
  • Slowing mental decline – Exercise seems to slow brain atrophy, especially in the hippocampus, which influences memory and spatial navigation.
  • Reducing the risk of falls – People with Alzheimer’s tend to fall more than others in their age group. Exercise can help your loved one with dementia improve their balance and be less afraid of falling.
  • Improving sleep – Sleep disorders are common for those with Alzheimer’s. Exercise has been shown to be effective in helping loved ones develop a better sleep routine.
  • Providing simple joy – Movement helps to fill your loved one’s day and provides them with feelings of enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment.

Getting Started: Exercise Tips for Your Loved One at Home

Ms. Shellie Kermin, Community Relations Director of North Woods Village at Edison Lakes says,“Today, leading residential memory care assisted living communities routinely incorporate physical activity and exercise into their comprehensive therapy programs. Likewise, it is important for at-home caregivers to understand the value of exercise for their loved ones in the home setting. Not only does exercise provide proven physical and emotional benefits, it also offers an important means of social engagement for loved ones – especially when their caregivers join in.”

“There are a variety of beneficial activities you can do at home with your loved that are easy to manage. Just make sure your loved one is safe when they are being physically active.”

Experts tell us that the following home activities can be highly beneficial:

  • Walking – Walking around your yard is fine and in the early stages of the disease, walking in a mall might also be possible.
  • Exercise class – Some senior centers and other facilities offer classes specifically for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
  • Doing chores around the house – Activities such as vacuuming, dusting and doing laundry are all beneficial.
  • Gardening – Simply working in the garden can be a pleasant source of exercise and relaxation.
  • Dancing – Select music from the time when your loved one was in their prime and encourage them to dance with you. If your loved one is confined to a wheelchair, they can still clap or move to the music.
  • Water exercise – Ask your local Y or senior center that has a pool if you can take classes with your loved one.
  • Practicing Tai Chi – This popular activity helps with balance as well as providing exercise.
  • Riding a stationary bike – If you don’t have one at home, try the gym or a senior center.
  • Stretching and strength training – If you do not have hand weights, you can try canned goods in their place.

Ms. Kermin adds, “Exercise is not only good for your loved one, it also very important for highly stressed, overburdened caregivers. Remember, to be an effective caregiver you have to take care of yourself first!”

Help Is Available for Caregivers

Today, a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, Respite Care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressive residential Memory Care Communities (MCCs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers.

Guiding. Caring. Inspiring.

For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM  program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM  provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.