Exercise can help everyone stay healthy and feel their best. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, regular exercise can slow the rate of functional decline, improve sleep, mood, appetite, and self-esteem, and reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Exercise can also reduce the risk of falls by improving balance and coordination.
Regular exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym or playing sports. Nearly any physical activity that increases your heart rate and makes you breathe more deeply can provide significant benefits to those with Alzheimer’s.
What does it involve?
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. If you have physical challenges, consider consulting with a physical therapist to develop a customized exercise plan. There are exercises and physical activities appropriate for any level of ability.
It is important to choose a type of physical activity you will enjoy and can regularly do. Activities such as gardening and walking a pet can help you stay active and healthy. Incorporate social aspects by taking a dance class or going for walks with a friend. Be creative. Many types of exercise can be done seated. Even small amounts of weight or resistance – for instance, lifting your arms or legs repeatedly against gravity – provide benefits.
Whatever type of physical activity you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Always begin your exercise session with a gradual warm-up and take the time to cool down afterward. Warming up and cooling down will help prevent sore or pulled muscles. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning a regimen of physical activity. At first, try to exercise for 10 minutes each day. As you become accustomed to the activity, exercise for longer periods every day. Focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. If you experience new or worse Alzheimer’s symptoms or side effects from medications, adjust your activity program to keep it safe and rewarding.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best physical and psychological condition. In those with Alzheimer’s, it can slow the rate of functional decline and improve other symptoms such as sleep problems and mood changes. Exercise might lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s for those who are concerned about the disease. Physical exercise can increase strength, promote a healthy weight, stave off heart disease and osteoporosis, improve your mood and self-esteem, and reduce the risk for falls.
The results of several clinical trials indicate that exercise can improve mental speed, attention, physical function, and mood symptoms such as depression, irritability, and anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Some Alzheimer’s symptoms and medication side effects can make it difficult to feel motivated to start or continue a routine of physical activity.
If you exercise too hard, you may feel sore for a day or two afterward. Soreness is a sign that you should take it a little easier next time. If one type of exercise does not work for you, consider trying another.