You’ve heard it time and time again: Eating right and staying active are two of the best ways to stave off health problems throughout your life. This is even true for older adults who have been diagnosed with dementia. After all, exercise doesn’t just improve your physical health; it also has a variety of cognitive and social benefits that can improve quality of life for individuals in all stages of dementia. Intimidated about starting an exercise regimen later in life? Don’t be – it’s never too late to start making healthy choices. Read on for more information about the connection between exercise and dementia, including the cognitive and bodily benefits of physical activity.
Exercise and Dementia
Cognitive Benefits of Exercise
Slowed Cognitive Decline
Earlier this year, TIME Magazine reviewed a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study evaluated the fitness levels of older adults, comparing brain health between older adults at varying fitness levels. The study’s findings were extremely positive. According to the study, adults with low fitness levels later in life had more deterioration of white matter in their brains. That’s important for a few reasons. First, white matter deterioration causes a decline in certain decision-making brain functions. Since exercise staves off white matter deterioration, it very well may maintain brain function, slowing cognitive decline and perhaps even staving off dementia symptoms.
Reduced Memory Loss
The benefits of regular exercise and dementia go beyond slowed cognitive decline. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can slow the progression of individual dementia symptoms by maintaining the part of the brain that manages thinking and reasoning skills. The Mayo Clinic also reports that exercise can improve memory, reasoning, judgment, and thinking skills. That’s enough to make anyone hit the treadmill.
Physical Benefits of Exercise
The physical benefits of exercise are, of course, undeniable. From weight loss to healthy bones and joints, it’s obvious that anyone can benefit from staying active. Regular physical activity like walking or golfing has a host of benefits. It can lower blood pressure, keep you at a healthy weight, and help you sleep better. All of those factors are important for individuals with dementia who may be more prone to heart disease, restless sleep, and other complications as their condition progresses. Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, exercising for between 30 and 60 minutes several times a week can reduce the risk of a host of ailments, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Staving off chronic health issues like these can help you maintain your quality of life after a dementia diagnosis.
Types of Exercise
You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the many physical benefits of exercise – even light activity can have major benefits. Before beginning an exercise program, older adults should consult their doctor to develop an activity regimen with maximum benefits and minimum undue physical strain. Older adults with dementia should consider mentally or socially engaging physical activities to help stave off cognitive decline. For example, you might enjoy walking with a friend, joining an exercise group at a fitness center, or golfing. For older adults in the later stages of dementia, these activities may be too physically demanding. If that’s the case, light strolling or gardening can be a great place to start.
At Waterstone on Augusta, we understand the promising correlation between exercise and dementia symptoms. Our caring, highly skilled staff works diligently to help combat the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia by engaging residents through socialization, memory games, brain fitness exercises, and other activities. We work with each individual resident to determine how we can best improve their quality of life throughout the stages of dementia. We also provide support services for family members. To learn more about our memory care services, contact us today.