Alzheimer’s & Exercise
Orange County Chapter
17771 Cowan, STE 200
Irvine, CA 92614
Our Vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
» Click here to learn more about ways to get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association.
We at Whole Body Fitness can design a personalized progressive fitness program, monitor your progress and provide supervision and support throughout. We can work with your healthcare provider in getting you started on an exercise program that would be best for you.
>> For pricing information, review our Medical Fitness Pricing page
>> Contact us for a complimentary consultation: 949-378-4505
One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in 2012. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will grow each year as the proportion of the U.S. population over age 65 continues to increase. The number will escalate rapidly in the coming years as the baby boomers age. Two thirds are woman.
The number of Americans surviving into their 80’s and 90’s and beyond is expected to grow dramatically due to advances in medicine and medical technology, as well as social and environmental conditions. By 2030, the segment of the U.S. population age 65 and older is expected to double and the estimated 71 million older Americans will make up 20% of the total population.
“Dementia” is an umbrellas term describing a variety of diseases and conditions that develop when the nerve cells in the brain die or no longer function normally. The death or malfunction of these nerve cells, called neurons, causes changes in one’s memory, behavior and ability to think clearly. In Alzheimer’s disease, these brain changes eventually impair an individual’s ability to carry out such basic bodily functions as walking and swallowing.
Alzheimer’s disease was first identified more than 100 years ago, but research into its symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment has gained momentum only in the last 30 years. Alzheimer’s disease affects people in different ways, but the most common symptom pattern begins with the gradual worsening ability to remember new information. Individuals progress from mild Alzheimer’s disease to moderate and severe disease at different rates. As the disease progresses the individual’s cognitive and functional abilities decline.
Alzheimer’s and Exercise
Exercise benefits the Alzheimer’s patient by improving both symptoms and quality of life. For the same level of brain deterioration, physically active people exhibit higher levels of cognitive functioning than sedentary people. It is thought that physically active people have a ‘cognitive reserve’ that is used when other areas of the brain are damaged.
An exercise routine may decrease the severity of symptoms of dementia as well as lead to increased mobility and independence. An exercise routine should be composed of four components:
An aerobic training program, improves cardiovascular health as wellas brain health. It is associated with decreased risk of stroke and the related dementia. Physical activity may also decrease the beta-amyloid proteins leading to decreased amyloid plaque and decreased disruption between neurons. For maximum health benefit, 30-minutes of aerobic activity should be performed most days of the week. This need not be intense and the participant should be able to talk throughout. The 30-minutes can be split into smaller, 10-minutes segments if that is more desirable. When beginning a training program, you can start with intervals as short as 5-minutes and progress.
Strength training programs combat the loss of muscle mass associated with aging. It can improve independence, mobility, and balance. Daily tasks (e.g. getting out of bed, getting out of chairs, climbing stairs) become easier with increased strength. Ideally, 10-15 repetitions of 8-10 exercises should be performed 2 or 3 times per week. The resistance should be great enough that each set of repetitions is difficult to complete. Resistance may be applied with bands or tubing, light weights, or even cans of food. If the sets are completed easily, the resistance should be increased.
Balance exercises can be performed almost anywhere. Balance is position specific so both standing balance and sitting balance should be targeted. With improved standing balance, there is decreased risk of falls and fractures. Standing on one-leg, with or without assistance, will help improve standing balance. Sitting balance can be improved by sitting on a chair, couch, or balance ball, with the lower back straight, and lifting an arm or a leg into a different position. Also, chair stands can be included. The more unstable the sitting surface is, the more difficult the exercise will be. More advanced exercises such as backwards walking and leaning can be gradually added into the program.
Flexibility exercises are best performed with the aid of a personal trainer, training partner, or care giver. They can improve back pain and shoulder pain and increase range of motion.
There are certainly challenges in starting and keeping an exercise program. However, older adults are among the most willing to begin exercise programs as they are more aware of health issues. With dementia patients, there may be additional challenges as the disease progresses. However, there are many techniques that may help combat challenges that arise. The improvement in functioning and quality of life should make the challenges worthwhile.
All training programs should be entered into gradually and only after checking with his/her physician.