Exercise For Alzheimer's Patients

Editor’s Note: Exercise has myriad benefits, and the same holds true for people with Alzheimer’s. In addition to mental exercise and social interaction, physical activity is essential. It can help keep muscles and the heart in shape, reduce stress and depression and maintain an even weight. The companionship it provides with visitors or caregivers can also be helpful. Here, from the National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life program, are some tips for caregivers to help their loved ones get into a physical routine, or maintain one:

*An exercise routine doesn’t have to be long. In fact, the NIA experts say, several 10-minute “mini-workouts” may be the most realistic choice.

*Don’t hesitate to join in to make the activity more fun. The patient’s visitors can also participate.

*Try exercising in the morning.

*Break exercises into simple, easy-to-follow steps. *Choose comfortable clothes that are suitable for the weather and appropriate shoes that fit well.

*Make sure both you and the person with Alzheimer’s drink plenty of water when exercising.

Some physical activities to try:

Take a walk together, even a brief one.

Do simple tasks around the house, such as sweeping and dusting.

Work in the garden.

Play music and dance. Ask your patient which kind of music he or she prefers.

Exercise with videos made for older people. The Go4Life program has several free publications and even a DVD to help you. Click here to order the DVD and here for the publications.

Throw a soft rubber exercise ball back and forth.

Lift weights or household items such as soup cans.

As always, check with the patient’s doctor before beginning an exercise program. The Alzheimer’s Association has some good tips for protecting patients from trauma: Use protective headgear when necessary, and guard against tripping hazards. For more information, click here

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