The Power of Exercise

exerciseSome of our readers have asked how I have the energy to run a business at my age of 75.  I’m sure there are several factors.  However, one of the prime contributors is exercise.  I choose activities that are fun.  My favorites are aerobics, swimming, walking my dog, hiking and when given the opportunity dancing.

Exercise and fun activities are not only important for you and me, but for everyone, even when they have health issues such as dementia.  So many people put loved ones who have dementia in front of a television to keep them entertained.  However, a good routine which includes exercise is essential for their well-being and for your well-being.  So, what’s so magical about exercise?

For you and me, it helps control weight; it combats health conditions and disease; it improves mood, confidence, and self-esteem; it boosts energy; and promotes better sleep.

For a person with dementia, exercise can help them to achieve purpose and pleasure. Physical exercise is essential for maintaining adequate blood flow to the brain and may stimulate new brain cell growth and survival.   Suitable exercise and activity play a significant part in dealing with their challenging behaviors by reducing anxiety, stress and depression.

There are many ways to plan and provide appropriate activities for people with dementia.  First, understand what makes the person unique so that you can plan suitable activities for them.  Second, talk to the person’s doctor before starting any new exercise program.  He or she will suggest appropriate exercise and activities.  If a physical therapist has been involved with your loved one, he or she has already designed an exercise program that takes your loved one’s current health and abilities into account.

Research into the potential of physical exercise to reduce the risk of dementia is continuing.  While researchers don’t have definitive evidence, several studies found that physical exercise in early, mid and late life is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia.  Studies show that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience heart disease and stroke.  Both factors are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia.  Exercise is also important in reducing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.  All are risk factors for Dementia.

Research also shows that only a small number of people over 65 (fewer than 20%) engage in an adequate level of physical activity.  People who have dementia are even less likely to engage in such activity.  Exercise introduced into your loved one’s lifestyle in their early stages of dementia is more likely to be maintained as their condition progresses.  Why not extend the benefits to their health and well-being for as long as possible?  While you’re at it why not plan an exercise program for yourself as well?