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Published on: December 17, 2013
by Fiesta Gardens for U~T San Diego:
The benefits of exercise for older adults have long been established, but we have not known if there were equal benefits for persons diagnosed with dementia.
In a meta analysis of 16 clinical trials, several studies attempted to determine whether exercise has a positive impact on cognitive abilities, activities of daily living, difficult behaviors and depression.
All of the studies employed different types of exercise programs, and the participants were in different stages of the dementia continuum. The researchers found that on average, exercise improved cognitive functioning and the ability to perform activities of daily living (i.e., grooming, ambulating, eating and toileting).
While we cannot take the dementia away, we may be able to delay memory and cognition problems and extend the person’s ability to be independent. Exercise can also be the best non-pharmacologic stress, depression and anxiety reducer. Much of the time, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand with the dementia.
Exercise is also good for reducing falls (which are a significant problem for people with dementia).
Whether a loved one is at home or in a care facility, exercise should be a part of the daily routine. Examples of exercise include walking, tennis, golf, dancing, yoga, chair exercises, stretching, weight training, zumba, swimming and running.
One can also “sneak” in exercise on a daily basis by walking the stairs instead of using the elevator. How about parking on the far side of the grocery store lot instead of waiting for that spot in the first row? How about walking the golf course instead to getting the cart?
The bottom line: to motivate a person to exercise, they have to like it and it has to be convenient. If a loved one is at home, the caregiver doesn’t need to make it difficult on him or herself. If the caregiver commits to taking the loved one to the senior center for a class, but it is 10 miles from home, it won’t always be easy to get there on a regular basis. Similarly, if a loved one always hated walking, that shouldn’t be the exercise of choice.
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