Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, a term that describes a group of symptoms that impair daily functioning and quality of life. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and this number is expected to rise to 13 million by 2050. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, research has shown that exercise can help delay or slow down its onset and progression. Exercise can also improve mood, sleep, and overall well-being for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. In this blog post, we will explore how exercise can benefit the brain and what types of exercise are recommended for people with Alzheimer’s. How does exercise benefit the brain?
Some of the positive effects of exercise on the brain are:
It increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain cells, which helps them function better and prevents damage from oxidative stress.
- It stimulates the growth of new brain cells and connections, especially in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
- It enhances the production and release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help regulate mood, cognition, and behavior.
- It reduces inflammation and amyloid plaques, which are abnormal protein deposits that accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and interfere with communication between brain cells.
- It protects against vascular dementia, which is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain due to strokes or other conditions.
What types of exercise are recommended for people with Alzheimer’s? The best type of exercise for people with Alzheimer’s is the one that they enjoy and can do safely and regularly. However, some general guidelines are:
- Aerobic exercise: This involves any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and endurance, which can help prevent or delay cognitive decline. It also boosts mood and energy levels, which can reduce depression and anxiety. Some studies have shown that aerobic exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus and improve memory performance in older adults.
- Strength training: This involves using weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight to build muscle strength and power, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or squatting. Strength training helps maintain muscle mass and bone density, which can prevent falls and fractures. It also improves metabolism and blood sugar control, which can lower the risk of diabetes and other diseases. Some research has suggested that strength training can enhance cognitive function and slow down brain aging by increasing blood flow and growth factors in the brain.
- Balance and flexibility exercises: These involve improving your posture, coordination, and range of motion, such as yoga, tai chi, or pilates. Balance and flexibility exercises can reduce the risk of falls and injuries by enhancing your stability and agility. They can also improve your joint health and mobility, which can prevent pain and stiffness. Additionally, they can promote relaxation and mindfulness, which can lower stress levels and improve mental clarity.
- Cognitive stimulation: This involves engaging your brain in challenging and enjoyable activities, such as listening to music, playing games, or solving puzzles. Cognitive stimulation can enhance memory, attention, and problem-solving skills by activating different regions of the brain. It can also provide social interaction and fun, which can boost your mood and self-esteem. Some evidence has indicated that cognitive stimulation can delay cognitive decline and improve the quality of life for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
Before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any medical conditions or limitations, consult your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine the appropriate type and intensity of exercise for your health and fitness level. Seek professional guidance from a physical therapist, personal trainer, or exercise instructor who has experience working with people with Alzheimer’s. They can help you design a safe and effective exercise program that meets your needs and goals. Find a buddy or join a group to exercise with. Exercising with others can provide social support, motivation, and accountability. It can also make exercise more fun and enjoyable. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain health and overall well-being. By staying physically active, you can help prevent or delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and improve your quality of life. So get moving today and reap the benefits of exercise for your mind and body!
: Alzheimer’s Association
: Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report
: Exercise and the Brain: How Fitness Impacts Learning
: Exercise increases brain size, new research finds
: How Exercise Affects Your Brain
: Exercise may slow brain aging by 10 years for older people
: Vascular dementia – Symptoms and causes
: Aerobic exercise slows cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease
: The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Mood and Cognition in Alzheimer’s Disease
: Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial
: Strength Training for Older Adults
: Strength Training for Diabetes and Osteoporosis Prevention
: Resistance training enhances cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
: Balance and Stretching Exercises for Seniors: 14 Moves to Try Today
: Flexibility Exercises for Older Adults: 5 Moves to Start Today
: The Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults
: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) for Dementia: What Is It?
: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) for Dementia: What Are the Benefits?
: Cognitive stimulation therapy for people with dementia: cost-effectiveness analysis
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