We all know that regular physical exercise is good for us. It helps control our weight, reduces the risk of certain diseases, improves our overall mental health and mood and strengthens our bones and muscles. Physical exercise also helps our brains by maintaining good blood flow to the brain, which can encourage new brain cell growth and help older brain cells survive.
Exercise can also impact dementia in a number of ways. This article discusses how exercise can reduce the risk of a person developing dementia, as well as the benefits of exercise for someone living with dementia.
How Can Physical Exercise Reduce the Risk of Developing Dementia?
Taking part in physical exercise is an important aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle as it contributes to our fitness, coordination, muscle control and general well-being. As mentioned above, it is also essential for maintaining blood flow to the brain.
There have been several research studies that have found exercise to be one of the factors that reduce the risk of a person developing dementia. Research into how physical exercise can reduce the risk of dementia is ongoing; however, several studies have found that taking part in physical activity throughout our lives, from our early years, through our mid and later life, has been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Exercise also helps to prevent a number of the other risk factors that are associated with dementia. For example, people who regularly exercise are less likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, which are both factors that contribute to an increased risk of a person developing dementia. In addition, physical exercise is also proven to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity, which are also risk factors for dementia.
How Can Physical Exercise Benefit Someone Living with Dementia?
Physical exercise has proven to have a number of benefits for people living with dementia, and as such, should be continued for as long as possible after a dementia diagnosis. The benefits of physical exercise include helping to strengthen muscles, reducing mobility problems and reducing the risk of other health complications. These are all beneficial for a person living with dementia. In addition, exercise can help to encourage a normal day-night routine, improve mood, increase social participation and reduce stress. Regular physical exercise can also reduce the risk of depression, which is often linked to dementia.
How to Incorporate Exercise into the Life of a Person with Dementia
Less than 20% of people over the age of 65 do enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and people living with dementia are even less likely to take part in physical activity. However, it is important to try to encourage them to keep active. For a person living with dementia, doing a repetitive physical activity in one spot is often the most appropriate form of exercise, as they don’t have to make any decisions or remember what to do next. As such, walking on a treadmill, or cycling on an exercise bike may be a good option.
It is better if an exercise program is incorporated into the person’s life during the earlier stages of dementia so that it is more likely to become part of the routine and be maintained as the condition progresses. The longer the person can continue doing physical exercise, the longer they will experience the associated health and well-being benefits.
As dementia progresses to later stages, it may be more difficult for the person to take part in exercise, and they may need a significant amount of support and encouragement from their family, carers and organisations in order to maintain their physical movement. There are structured exercise programs available for people living with dementia, where trained staff can assist them with physical exercise. Family, friends and volunteers can all get involved in a structured exercise program, or alternatively, help their loved one to get physical exercise out-with a structured program if they feel confident to do so.
Just like most exercise programs, a person living with dementia should attempt to exercise in a way that incorporates different elements of exercise: aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility and balance exercises.
How to Get Started
We know that we should always consult a doctor before starting an exercise program. This is particularly important if the person who is exercising has an illness or disability to consider. For a person living with dementia, it is important to get advice from a doctor on the most appropriate type and intensity of exercise to do.
Remember that any exercise is beneficial; it doesn’t have to be a supervised exercise program if this is not available or it is difficult to organise. A person living with dementia will see great benefit from taking part in simple exercise, such as walking or dancing. The most important thing is that the person enjoys the exercise they are doing.
If you’re thinking of starting an exercise program, why not try Ageless Grace®. It uses all five areas of the brain combined with simple, organic movement to improve brain health through a combination of fun, playful exercises that will improve the mood of the caregiver and the people in their care.