The amount of physical activity your loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer's receives is important to their well-being. It can help reduce certain risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and more. Physical activity can also help reduce some of the challenging behaviors associated with dementia. As a result, it’s important to help your loved one stay active.
Benefits of Exercise
Adding regular physical activity into the routines of older adults has been shown to have many positive effects on their health, such as helping to prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and some types of cancer. And for seniors with memory loss, these benefits can be even more pronounced. Disease prevention is one of the most important reasons to establish or maintain as much activity as you can, whether that’s through traditional exercise programs or common daily activities.
For those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, physical activity can also help reduce sleep disorders and the agitation, wandering, and other challenging behaviors related to sundowning.
As memory loss progresses, even loved ones who were previously very active may become more sedentary. And although they can lose interest in their pastimes or resist taking up new hobbies or exercise regimens, there are many ways to incorporate physical activities into their daily routine that are engaging, safe, and suitable for their ability. It can be very motivating for your loved one if you participate alongside them, demonstrating the movements. Try to keep the initial sessions relatively short or break them into smaller segments. You can also utilize music or social interaction to make the activity more enjoyable. If your loved one is not thrilled about “exercise,” try a fun or functional activity that involves movement, such as gardening or seated volleyball using a beach ball.
There are many activities out there for your loved one to try. Keep in mind their interests and mobility level as you peruse them. Here are some good options.
Walking Together - You can do this indoors or outside. Look for different, scenic routes and gradually increase the distance or duration.
Best of all – it’s free and doesn’t require any special equipment or instruction.
Dancing - This is a great social exercise for seniors who are still fully mobile. dance together at home, or find a dance gathering at a local senior community.
Swimming - This is an ideal option for seniors who have compromised joints, trouble balancing, or conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
Chores and Daily Activities - Things like gardening, washing dishes, folding and putting away laundry, and dusting provide a variety of movements and activity. Plus, the mental focus required in these daily activities is highly beneficial.
Tai chi or Yoga - Take advantage of a free or low cost group or class just for seniors in your area.
Seated Exercise - There are numerous options to choose from including seated yoga, strength training, core exercises, stretching, and more. Instructional videos and information can be found online. Group classes are offered at many senior centers, fitness centers, and senior living communities.
Sit-to-Stand Exercises - These can be practiced to help maintain your loved one’s ability to independently perform basic functions such as using the bathroom.
Supported and unsupported sitting - For loved ones who have very limited mobility, just a few minutes per day of unsupported or supported sitting in a chair or on a bench or bed, can improve balance and strengthen abdominal and back muscles.
It’s always a good idea to check with your loved one’s doctor before beginning a new exercise program or activity. Be sure your loved one is supervised during activities to prevent falls or injury.
For more tips on caring for your loved one with memory loss, visit the Artis Senior Living blog.