Exercise and physical activity is good for every one of us - with so many health benefits that come from leading a healthy and active lifestyle, it’s hard to find an excuse not to participate. Even when a person gets old, or ill, it’s still good to know what physical activity you can do not to cause yourself any harm, and in fact improve your health.
We wanted to research some activity which will help those with dementia lead a healthy lifestyle, and incorporate physical activity into it. The benefits of physical activity for those with early stages of dementia include:
Improving general fitness levels which help maintain strong muscles and healthy joints - this leads to helping people be independent and mobile for longer. In turn, this helps with activities like cooking, cleaning, and dressing themselves. It also helps reduce the risk of falls by keeping muscles and bones stronger
Helping keep bones strong and reducing the risk of disease like osteoporosis
Improving the heart and blood vessels which in turn can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
Helping to reduce the risk of some types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes
Helping to improve memory and slowing down mental decline
Helping you sleep - you use up your energy during exercise so expect a good nights sleep after getting a little bit physical!
Helping improve morale - many local centres hold exercise groups for those with dementia so you can meet similar people to you, get social interaction which is great for the mood and for your confidence!
There is a variety of ways you can perform physical activity, and get some exercise during the early stages of dementia. The Department of Health recommends around 150 minutes of moderate activity per week - this is around half an hour per day for five days a week. Of course, these numbers depend on the individual and their circumstance. And when we talk about exercise and activity, we’re not talking about 10 reps of star jumps - more like a 15 minute walk to the shops, a little bit of house work, gardening, or a stroll in the park. Below is a list of just some physical activities you can do together with your loved one, or client, who has early stages of dementia:
This is the most simple, yet effective physical activity which can be tailored to all abilities. Walking can be a social activity if walking in groups, or it can be the time you spend unwinding and de-stressing. The amount you walk is tailored to individual circumstances and abilities, and can be done anywhere - from a stroll to the shops, to a scenic walk in the countryside. Read our post about the benefits of walking for more information.
We have previously spoken about the general health benefits of gardening - enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity like weeding, mowing the lawn, raking, or pruning. Tailor activities to suit personal abilities and circumstances
Ranging from couple dancing, group session, to improvised movement, dancing can be as fast paced or slow as you want - the point is it gets you moving, and it’s a lot of fun! It’s a social activity which helps with stress levels, flexibility, and balance. Dancing can also be done in the seated position.
Swimming helps people feel weightless, and the sensation of water is calming helping to reduce stress. It can help improve balance which reduces the risk of falls in older people. Please make sure that your loved one, or client, is always supervised when swimming!
Tai chi & qigong
Tai chi and qigong are forms of ancient Chinese martial arts which are gentle on the body and soothing on the mind. They combine physical movements with meditation in order to improve balance and wellbeing. Not only will these types of exercise reduce stress and help bring emotional balance, but they may also help prevent falls and the risk of injury.
These types of exercises can be done at home or in social groups - you can watch tutorials online, or have an instructor who can show you moves to repeat. Seated exercise is less strenuous than standing/walking exercise, but still keeps your heart pumping and blood flowing. Some examples of seated exercise can include:
Turning your upper body from side to side
Practicing moving from sitting to standing
making circles with your arms
Clapping under the legs
Raising arms towards the ceiling
Making circles with your feet
Information gathered with the help of Alzheimer’s Society - visit their site for more useful information on dementia and Alzheimer’s.