Exercise is often one of the lifestyle factors listed as a way to help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, but more and more evidence is showing exercise may also help those already living with the disease and may even slow or reverse some symptoms. In this article, we’ll go over six benefits of exercise for seniors with Alzheimer’s.
- Reduce depression. Nearly a third of people living with Alzheimer’s suffer from major depression and the impact on quality of life it can cause. Exercise has long been known to be a powerful tool in combatting both anxiety and depression as it helps produce endorophins that can boost your mood. These endorphins may also impact memory and learning as well.
- Combat restlessness and wandering. Many seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia may wander off or struggle with restlessness. Someone who exercises regularly may be less likely to experience this because the exercise could alleviate some of the jitteriness and anxiety that causes restlessness and wandering. Additionally, exercise may also help to burn off excess energy.
- Improve balance and coordination. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it can affect the ability to walk and carry out daily tasks, and this can lead to falls and injuries. Exercise is known to improve balance and coordination and help prevent falls, so it may be able to prevent or slow that decline.
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular complications. Your body is interconnected, so issues in one organ system can affect another, especially blood flow between the brain and heart. However, routine exercise, a healthy diet, weight loss, and quitting smoking can all lower the risk of heart issues.
- Alleviate sleep problems. Many patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffer from sleep disturbances, and this can lead to things like fatigue, irritability, depression, lack of motivation, forgetfulness, and more, even with people not suffering from dementia. However, exercise has long been associated with improved sleep, so it may help Alzheimer’s patients with this issue as well.
- Slow cognitive impairment. The loss of cognitive, or brain, function is a hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s. However, some evidence suggest exercise may help adults experiencing mild cognitive impairment due to age or dementia. It’s unclear if this would help people experiencing more moderate or severe dementia.