Why and How to Encourage Exercise for Someone With Dementia
By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor
Benefits of exercise for those with dementia
Exercise has been called the “fountain of youth” for its countless health-preserving benefits, including safeguarding healthy people against mental declines. Researchers believe physical activity also benefits those who already have dementia.
Among the reasons to keep active, even with dementia:
- To slow mental decline. Several recent studies of people with dementia have shown that exercise seems to slow brain atrophy, especially in the hippocampus, which influences memory and spatial navigation.
- To improve 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 didn’t exercise.
- To reduce the risk of falls. People with dementia tend to fall more often than those without cognitive impairment. Changes in judgment and spatial control probably contribute to this. Exercise can help someone with dementia improve balance and be less fearful of falling.
- To lift mood, ease stress, and add calm. It’s believed that moving the body during the day helps lessen incidents involving aggression and agitation. Exercise can help reduce the effects of depression, a condition that’s common among people with dementia.
- To improve general cardiovascular health. Scientists know there’s a connection between heart health, blood pressure, and dementia. Although it’s unclear how this relationship might be altered once the disease has begun, the general protective benefits of exercise apply to everyone, regardless of their cognitive health.
- To pass time in an enjoyable way. Movement fills the day. It also provides a sense of accomplishment for the person with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
- To improve sleep. Sleep disorders are common among those with dementia. Exercise can help them get into a better sleep routine.
How to help someone with dementia start exercising
Even someone who has never worked out can begin a more physical way of life. Some type of exercise exists for almost everyone with Alzheimer’s (except those in end-stage disease) or other forms of dementia, from older adults with early dementia and no other ailments who can do aerobic-level activity in a class, to the wheelchair bound who may prefer simple range-of-motion movements.
Alzheimer’s home care counselors at Andelcare are available to talk with you and your family about care needs for your loved one, including, how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. Andelcare is a home care agency providing Alzheimer’s Home Care in Seattle WA and surrounding communities.