Dementia is a degenerative disease that results in a loss of brain function, including significant limitations in memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior. Light to moderate exercise may benefit dementia patients by improving both symptoms and quality of life. All exercise training programs should begin slowly and gradually increased according to abilities. Dementia patients must always perform physical activity with a qualified professional to ensure the exercises are done correctly and safely. Consult your physician before beginning any type of exercise for dementia treatment.
Functional exercise refers to exercises that are specifically related to improving function while performing every day tasks. Similar to occupational therapy, functional exercises involve a lot of fine motor control movements that are designed to help you perform daily activities such as brushing your teeth, washing your hair and changing your clothes. Your ability to perform some of these tasks may be hindered by dementia, making functional exercise necessary to increase your quality of life.
Strength Training Exercise
Strength training exercises for dementia patients are useful to combat the loss of muscle mass that is associated with aging. A strength training program for dementia patients can improve independence, mobility and balance. It can also help with daily tasks such as sitting up in bed and getting out of a chair. Strength training typically involves the use of resistance bands, free weights and weight machines and is ideally performed two to three days per week for best results.
Flexibility exercises for dementia patients can be performed by a personal trainer, physical therapist or certified care giver. These exercises are designed to maintain adequate flexibility and range of motion in the major joints of your body, and can improve dementia-related stiffness in your lower back. Flexibility training typically does not take long to complete and can be done every day.
According to the American Academy of Neurology, cardiovascular exercise can benefit dementia patients by improving both cardiovascular health and brain health. Cardiovascular exercise for dementia patients has also been shown to decrease the production of certain proteins in the brain that may make symptoms of dementia worse. Suppressing these proteins inhibits the buildup of plaque in your brain that can eventually lead to the development of Alzheimer's. Light to moderate walking or stationary bike riding for 30 minutes a day, four or more days a week is highly recommended for dementia patients.
- "Research Methods in Physical Activity"; Jerry R. Thomas and Jack K. Nelson; 2001
- "Motor Control and Learning"; Richard A. Schmidt and Timothy D. Lee; 1999
- NINDS; Dementia: Hope Through Research; 2011
- American Academy of Neurology; Physical Activity and Dementia Risk in the Elderly, 2007