Is exercise actually important in memory care?
THERE IS NO DOUBT that exercise improves overall health in all people. Multiple studies show that regular exercise during midlife can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 30 percent. Specifically for Alzheimer’s disease, this risk was reduced by 45 percent. Read more here.
But what are the effects of exercise for those in memory care that have already developed different types of dementia? If one memory care resident exercises regularly with physical activities that match their capability, they look and feel better, have less anxiety and better memory. The other memory care resident who doesn’t engage in physical activity will soften and slow, with symptoms that worsen over time.
Exercise Can Help Memory Care Residents
Just a simple daily walk for seniors with dementia can strengthen muscles, joints, and the heart, improving blood flow and breathing. Exercise can also boost memory care residents’ coordination and mood. All in all, people who exercise have less anxiety and depression.
Health scientists have taken this information to another level. Multiple studies show that the benefits of exercise for people with dementia can directly target symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. In lab tests, mice with Alzheimer’s who were exercised daily showed improved memory than the mice who stayed sedentary. Click here to learn more.
These tests showed that the mice that were in better shape had an increased amount of a molecule that promotes brain-cell health. So to make it very clear – regular exercise delays the onset of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease AND improves memory for people who already have it. Activity, in other words, is like medicine.
How do you encourage memory care residents to exercise?
People living with Alzheimer’s and dementia may have difficulty moving around, which is typical for older adults. But dementia can make it even more difficult because of less coordination, increased confusion, and mood-related symptoms like anxiety or depression.
The good news is that exercise can relieve all of these problems. At Spring Gardens in St. George, Utah, getting residents in memory care to move is one of our top priorities.
Let’s Keep Exercise Fun!
An exercise program doesn’t have to be something we dread. Science has shown that social interactions are essential for people with dementia. Choosing to do group exercise activities for seniors will make it more enjoyable for everyone. There are all kinds of activities to promote movement in memory care residents.
- Walking – Walking around the neighborhood, park, or indoor mall.
- Sit to stand exercises – strengthens the muscles needed for ADLs.
- Sit unsupported – strengthens the abdominal and back muscles needed for posture.
- Stretches and strength exercises – try some simple chair stretching routines.
- Tai chi
- Household chores – basic chores can be great exercise, like folding laundry, dusting, light vacuuming, or washing the car.
- Dance to the oldies but goodies
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. If that is too much, break it into three 10-minute workouts. Never push too hard. Gauge what is reasonable and plan accordingly. In other words: start small.
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