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iStock 000019624697XSmallAbsolutely, but up until recently, there was a common belief that there was only a limited benefit, if any, for people with dementia or Alzheimer's to exercise. Fortunately research has been done to prove that people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease benefit greatly from exercise. In fact, seniors who are not active are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as compared to their active peers.

The most important benefits of moderate exercise include:

  1. Increased endurance: With improved endurance you can do more for yourself, and get out to visit friends and family without being exhausted.
  2. Increased strength: With improved strength, you can maintain your independence without needing physical assistance with daily activities.
  3. Improved balance: Having good balance is very important for preventing falls and avoiding an unplanned trip to the emergency room.

When most people think of exercise they think of running or playing sports. But the truth is that exercise can take on many forms. For some people walking "laps" in their house or apartment building is exercise. For others, sitting in a chair and doing arm and leg strengthening is exercise. The great thing about moderate exercise is that it has positive effects on our entire body. It can improve circulation, help your heart function more efficiently and improve your breathing so you don't become easily winded. Best of all, it can help you feel stronger and more steady on your feet.

There is a misconception that only people with good memory can benefit from exercise because you have to be able to remember the exercises, right? Not necessarily. There are some great exercise videos out there for seniors that can be done sitting in a chair. Many senior centers offer exercise classes as well which have the added benefit of getting to socialize with other people. No memorization required.

Physical Therapists go to school for 6-7 years to become the true experts on safe exercising. Many of us have additional training in how to safely exercise older people with health issues. If you have any health issues, it is critical that you see a physical therapist first to learn how you can safely exercise and avoid injury.

I have seen hundreds of individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's benefit greatly from Physical Therapy. A good therapist will go slowly when adding and progressing exercises. In addition the therapist should always give written handouts with pictures of the exercises. This is extremely helpful when you do these exercises on the days you don't see the therapist. Most importantly the therapist should individualize the exercise program for you, and explain to you how this will improve your quality of life. Memory loss is absolutely not a barrier to exercising and being active. It actually can increase your ability to remain independent.

Do you know of someone who has memory loss and is unsteady on their feet or has weakness in their legs? If so, they may qualify for a Physical Therapist to come to the home.

Published in Blog