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Alzheimer’s disease: Exercise

Staying physically active is important for people with Alzheimer's disease.

It doesn't have to be a formal workout. Activities from gardening to dancing offer physical and mental health benefits as well as maintaining or improving a person's quality of life.

Physical activity helps to prevent muscle weakness and health complications associated with inactivity. Exercise also promotes a normal day-and-night routine and may help to improve mood.

Repetitive exercises - such as walking, indoor cycling, and activities such as folding laundry - may decrease anxiety in people with Alzheimer’s disease because they don’t have to make decisions about the activity or remember what to do next.

Exercise provides emotional satisfaction of a feeling of having accomplished something.

Research suggests that exercise could slow down the course of the disease and improve memory function. People with early Alzheimer’s may be able to preserve their brain function for a longer time by exercising regularly.

You should check with your doctor before beginning any exercise programme. Your doctor may make recommendations about:

  • The types of exercise best suited to you and those to avoid.
  • How hard you should be exercising.
  • How long you should exercise for.
  • Referrals to other professionals, such as a physiotherapist, who can help you create your own personal exercise programme.

The type of exercise that works best for you depends on your symptoms, fitness level and overall health. The final precaution, when you get the go ahead to begin exercising, is to go slowly.

Tips for exercise

  • Always warm up before beginning your exercise routine, and cool down at the end.
  • If you plan to exercise for 30 minutes, start with 10-minute sessions and work your way up.
  • Try water exercise, such as aqua aerobics. These exercises are often easier on the joints and require less balance.
  • Work out in a safe environment - avoid slippery floors, poor lighting, rugs and other potential dangers.
  • If you have difficulty maintaining your balance, exercise within reach of a grab bar or handle. If you have trouble standing or getting up, try to exercise on the bed rather than on the floor or an exercise mat.
  • If at any time you feel sick or you begin to hurt, stop the activity.
  • Most of all, select a hobby or activity you enjoy and stick with it.

Some suggestions include: gardening, walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga and Tai Chi.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 12, 2017

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