Being physically active is important with individuals with dementia. Exervice is beneficial for physical and mental health, improves quality of life and maintains well-being. Additionally, engaging in physical activities can also improve self-esteem and mood and encourages social engagement.
Before embarking on any exercise program, however, talk to the individual's physician for confirmation that he or she can safely engage in physical activity. Some conditions, such as bone and joint problems, heart problems, high blood pressure, and/or breathing and balance issues, may hinder exercise.
Once the physician approves, start out slowly and design an exercise program that is easy to follow and manage and one that can be done routinely at the same time every day. There are several web-based programs, "Sit and Be Fit" DVDs or YouTube videos, seniorexercises.com, just to name a few. Any program you choose should include appropriate elements of aerobic exercise, resistance training and flexibility and balance exercises. Walking is an excellent form of physical activity.
Here is a simple exercise routine that might be beneficial to you. In the beginning, sit facing each other as you do the exercises together. Don't overdo; start with three or four basic exercises, repeated about 8-10 times. Then you can broaden the program. Playing music as you exercise can make it more enjoyable. Be mindful of breathing in and out between each repetition during the exercises.
- Spread arms out, breathe, spread arms down, breathe.
- Shoulder lifts — lift each shoulder up and down.
- Head rolling — turn head forward, left, right and back.
- In a sitting position, stretch legs in and out, one at a time, then both.
- Cross legs, rotate foot to the left, then to the right.
- Turn wrists of each hand in a circle, bend fingers, rub and press hands.
- Finish: Take a deep breath in, then a long and slow breath out. Take a deep breath in, then a quick and forceful breath out.
An exercise routine incorporated into your lifestyle is more likely to be maintained as the disease progresses, extending the benefits to health and well-being for as long as possible.
If the person experiences any pain or distress during the physical activity, you should stop immediately and make an appointment to be checked by a physician.