Alzheimer’s Disease and Exercise

Exercise is good for everyone, and it’s especially important for people with Alzheimer’s  disease. It won’t cure the condition, but it can help ease some of its symptoms.  There are many known benefits from exercise, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, strengthening the bones and muscles and reducing stress.  Also regular physical activity benefits the brain. Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Physical activity seems to help the brain not only by keeping your blood flowing but also by increasing chemicals that protect the brain. Physical activity also tends to counter some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occurs with aging.   Exercise also helps people sleep better and feel more alert during the day, so it can promote a normal day-and-night routine for people with Alzheimer’s. It also can improve mood. 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.

The type of exercise that works best for someone with Alzheimer’s depends on their symptoms, fitness level, and overall health. Check with your client/loved one’s doctor before he/she starts any  exercise program.  The doctor may have advice on:

  • The types of exercise that are best for them, and ones to avoid
  • How hard he/she should beworking out
  • How long he/her bouts of exercise should be
  • Other health professionals, such as a physical therapist, who can create a fitness program

Exercise Tips for People With Alzheimer’s

  • Start slowly. Once your clients/loved one’s doctor gives the OK for him/her to exercise, start with 10-minute sessions and work their way up.
  • Make sure your client warms up before exercise and cools down after.
  • Check their workout space for any hazards, such as slippery floors, low lighting, throw rugs, and cords.
  • If your client/loved one has a hard time keeping their balance, have them exercise within reach of a grab bar or rail. Other options are to exercise on the bed rather than on the floor or an exercise mat.
  • If your client starts to feel sick or begins to hurt, stop the activity.
  • Most of all, help them choose a hobby or activity they enjoys so they will stick with it. Some suggestions include gardening, walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, even water aerobics.


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