Physical exercise is crucial to maintaining or strengthening balance and sustaining blood flow throughout the body, brain and muscles. There are also numerous advantages to incorporating an exercise routine for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia that go beyond the physical benefits. Daily movement – especially outdoors – may encourage social interaction, promote emotional and cognitive health, and can even help improve feelings of independence. As we continue to explore ways to enhance the care for those with cognitive decline, we offer a variety of ways to guarantee that physical activity becomes part of a daily routine.
- Regular movement. Barring any physical restrictions such as Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia, encourage movement every day for a minimum of ten minutes and a maximum of 40 minutes a day. Simple exercises, such as walking and light calisthenics, are adequate enough to increase blood flow to the brain and muscles.
- Anxiety Your loved one may express concern after a fall, or other certain activities may lead to agitation. Be aware of these triggers and adjust the routine appropriately.
- Coordination. Sit across from one another and toss a soft rubber ball back and forth in a light-hearted game of catch. This is a fun way to activate hand-and-eye coordination.
- Location and ergonomic considerations. If exercise is performed indoors, be mindful of potential distractions such as reflective or patterned floors. It’s also important to pay attention to furniture heights and stability if used for positioning and support.
- Dancing feet. If your loved one has experienced a fall, encourage some soft-shoed dancing to enhance leg strength. Multiple muscles can be stimulated by gentle dancing without a great deal of exertion.
- Appropriate shoes. Avoid exercising in slippers or other shoes that don’t support the feet, legs and back sufficiently. Check the condition of the shoes your loved one is wearing during daily movement and replace worn or outdated shoes to avoiding slipping or injury.
- Move outdoors. Weather permitting, organize an exercise routine outside. The amount of time outside in the sunshine can increase Vitamin D, an essential vitamin. Be sure to use a suitable sunscreen if in the sun for longer than 15 minutes.
Most importantly, make it fun! Exercise and movement increase oxygen and blood flow, and may cause spontaneous laughter which can raise metabolic rates and endorphins. Fresh air and exercise also invigorate the body, reduce stress and lift a person’s mood, which is why keeping fit is a central part of our Balanced Care Method™. Regardless of age, even a small amount of physical movement can enrich a person’s attitude and increase vitality.