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Exercise and Activities for Those Living with Dementia

“Is there anything I can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?” This is a frequently asked question when it comes to dementia, memory loss and cognitive decline. An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease (http://www.alz.org/facts/), and it’s one of the most feared diseases due to its unknown cause and no cure.   Exercise and mental activities are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle for people of any age. And for people with dementia, this is no exception.

EXERCISE

There are several ways to boost your brain power and reduce the risk of decline in memory and thinking.  At the top of the list is exercise.  But, not just physical exercise but brain exercises as well.  Engaging in adequate exercise, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and keeping a healthy weight are all essential elements in increasing blood supply to your brain, and therefore help to keep your brain healthy.  Oftentimes, the problems that people with Alzheimer’s disease face are stress, anxiety, depression, confusion, and insomnia.  Getting plenty of exercise helps to reduce these negative symptoms.

Remember when beginning an exercise program for your loved one, you must start slowly.  It’s best to demonstrate the exercise first, then have them copy you.  Also, be sure to mix up your exercise routine.  Nothing’s worse than being bored while you’re exercising!

Some of the best exercises for those with dementia include walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics, and yoga.  All of these exercises are low-impact and can be tailored to fit your loved one’s needs and abilities.

ACTIVITIES

There’s an old saying “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain”.  Keeping your brain active by performing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, or even playing an instrument are great mental exercises.

In addition, a person with dementia may enjoy an outing, a day out in the sun.  Allow your loved one to do as much as possible, with no set time limit.  Uncomplicated and relaxing activities are best. This gives your loved one to have the benefit of leisure without feeling rushed and stressed.

People with dementia often have excellent memories of past events, movies and music.  Listening to music from their era, dancing, or even looking through old photo books can help your loved one recall their past.

No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is experiencing, exercise and activities can help them achieve purpose and pleasure.  And of course it’s better with a partner.  So lace up your tennis shoes, and make the first step.  Your heart and brain depend on it.

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