Exercise remains to be one of the essential components in keeping the body healthy. No innovation in the technology, food, or drug industry can outweigh the health benefits that regular physical activity can give.
Further, it is one activity that can help seniors with Alzheimer’s disease stay healthy and improve their quality of life. That’s why most Alzheimer’s assisted living facilities prioritize exercise and even use it as a form of therapy for their senior residents.
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, then it’s time to encourage them to stay active by working out.
Here’s how exercise helps seniors with Alzheimer’s as well as some safe workout activities to introduce to them!
How Staying Physically Active Helps Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease
Like other seniors, older adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease need regular physical activity to keep their bodies healthy and strong. Some of the physical benefits of exercise include:
- Strengthening of the bones and muscles.
- Improves weight and fitness.
- Controls blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Keeping their heart and lungs in good shape.
- Keeping the brain healthy by pumping more blood, oxygen, and nutrients in there.
- Reduces risk of developing lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
Moreover, regular exercise helps enhance their mental well-being. Studies show that working out stimulates the release of endorphins, causing the mood to improve and diminish any painful sensations in the body. Also, an improved mood often results in a good demeanor with reduced agitation, aggressiveness, and restlessness.
In addition, exercise boosts cognitive function (e.g., improved attention, focus, and processing), and regularly doing it can help improve a senior’s brain condition. Thus, making it an effective tool in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Many Alzheimer’s assisted living communities also use exercise as a form of therapy to help seniors sleep better at night and reduce sundowning episodes.
Safe Exercise Activities for Senior with Alzheimer’s
Since exercise is excellent for older adults, what kind of safe physical activities should seniors with Alzheimer’s disease do?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, older adults should engage in a multicomponent exercise routine with all four core practices: aerobic, balance, flexibility, and strength.
However, a loved one or caregiver should assess first the health and fitness condition of a senior before committing to a specific exercise program. Also, it would be best to consult a doctor first before starting any routines.
1. Mild to Moderate Exercises
For seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease who can still partake in physical activities, some suitable exercises to do are:
- Walking – A simple aerobic activity like walking for 30 to 45 minutes every day can do wonders for the physical welfare of your loved one. You can accompany them in the yard or around the neighborhood or guide them on the treadmill.
- Sit to stand exercise – This activity puts your loved one’s muscles and bones to good use, strengthening them in the process.
- Tai Chi – Is a therapeutic form of workout that can improve agility, balance, flexibility, and strength. You can guide your loved one in Tai Chi using online demos or sign both of you up to a fitness studio that offers it.
- Weightlifting – Lifting weights not only strengthens your bones but also prevents age-related muscle loss. Also, it saves seniors from developing joint pains and osteoporosis. Let your loved one work on lighter weights at least twice a week. Remember to consult a professional trainer and your doctor before doing this.
- Dancing – Aside from being fun and exciting, dancing is a form of aerobic activity that strengthens your loved one’s heart and lung capacity. It also won’t feel like a workout, especially if your loved one likes getting their groove on. Make it more enjoyable by organizing a dance event in their Alzheimer’s assisted living community.
- Water exercise – Also acts like physical therapy for older adults with problems in their lower extremities. It boosts body strength while only doing gentle and minimal movements. You and your loved one can enroll in the nearest YMCA or a fitness studio that provides water exercise.
- Gardening – Is an underrated hobby that qualifies as a good exercise for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. All that pulling, weeding, and raking burns up to 3000 calories. Plus, it’s a great way to get your loved one outside and basking in the morning sunshine.
2. Gentle Exercises
Seniors in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease may have a hard time moving around either due to the disease’s symptoms or its complication. Some causes of mobility problems include:
- Depression and isolation cause a lack of interest to move around or even get out of bed.
- Poor coordination and trouble with endurance.
- Sore or painful muscles and feet.
- An underlying chronic health condition.
Further, a senior with severe Alzheimer’s disease or experiencing its later stages finds it very difficult even to walk, let alone do a routine.
If this is the case, you can encourage your loved ones to do some gentle physical activities perfect for their fitness and health conditions. This includes the following:
- Standing and sitting exercise – This allows seniors to stretch their bones and muscles even for a few minutes. This can help with essential activities like toileting.
- Stretching in bed – This exercise activates the muscles and joints while also accommodating a senior’s mobility issue. You or a caregiver can even assist your loved one in performing these stretches.
- Stationary bike – Riding a stationary bike lets your loved one sit while moving the muscles of their legs and feet. Also, regularly doing this will help strengthen their heart and lungs.
- Chair yoga – Engaging in chair yoga exercises enhances the body’s flexibility and core strength while using a chair for stable support. It also incorporates breathing and relaxation techniques that can improve a senior’s mental health.
Alzheimer’s assisted living communities often have different kinds of safe exercise programs for seniors. Make sure to check it out to see if it includes your loved one’s favorite routine.