Benefits of Exercise for People with Alzheimer's

Physical exercise- such as jogging- can have benefits in Alzheimer's
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Physical exercise has been touted in research as a way to prevent and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. However, did you know that even after dementia sets in, physical exercise can benefit the person living with dementia?

There are several ways of treating Alzheimer’s disease. Medications, non-drug behavioral and environmental changes, education to families and caregivers- these all have value and can be helpful when responding to dementia.

Another way that’s being emphasized repeatedly is physical exercise.

How can physical exercise help people living with Alzheimer’s disease?

  • Reduce the Risk of Depression in Dementia

    Approximately 5 to 23% of people with dementia experience some level of depression. Depression can increase memory impairment and significantly impact a person's quality of life. Physical activity and exercising releases endorphins that can elevate mood.

  • Reduce Restlessness and Prevent Wandering

    Exercise can also help with reducing some of the challenging behaviors of Alzheimer's. Adequate exercise can provide enough physical activity so that a person is less likely to feel the need to move around and potentially wander out the door. After physical activity, our bodies are more prone to feeling rested and relaxed, which is beneficial for all of us.

  • Preserve Physical Functioning, Strength and ADL Abilities

    The body's ability to maintain balance and strength, and consequently to prevent falls, is a significant benefit in dementia. As dementia progresses, the physical ability to walk and carry out activities of daily living such as getting dressed and ready for the day declines. Physical exercise and other activities that require mobility can sometimes help maintain a higher level of functioning for a longer time.

  • Improve / Maintain Cardiac Function

    Poor cardiovascular health has been associated in research with cognitive decline.Maintaining a healthy heart can prevent other health complications and conditions that could further affect functioning.

  • Improve Sleep Habits

    A lack of exercise can also hinder the ability to sleep well, especially if someone is napping frequently during the day and then restless and awake at night. Physical activity can be helpful in maintaining a good sleep-wake cycle and in facilitating sound sleep at night.

  • Improve Mental Alertness and Cognitive Functioning

    Research has shown that physical exercise has actually improved cognition in those with mild cognitive impairment. While it hasn't been shown to restore memory completely, it has improved overall thought processes and cognitive functioning.

    Weight training was shown to be particularly effective, with improvements in selective attention, conflict resolution and memory. Walking has also demonstrated improvements in memory. The results of multiple research studies are very encouraging regarding physical exercise and its benefit prior to, and following, cognitive decline.

Further Resources

Which Type of Exercise Best Slows and Reduces Risk of Dementia?

Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer's Through Physical Exercise

Sources:

Alzheimer's Society. Exercise and physical activity for people with dementia. Accessed August 29, 2012. Exercise and physical activity for people with dementia

Cleveland Clinic. Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease: Frequently Asked Questions About Alzheimer’s Disease. Accessed August 27, 2012. 

Geriatric Nursing. Benefits of Physical Exercise for Older Adults With Alzheimer’s Disease. Accessed August 29, 2012.

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