Exercise is important for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Physical activity should be continued for as long as possible. This will help prevent muscle weakness and health complications associated with inactivity. Exercise also promotes a normal day-and-night routine and may help to improve mood. Repetitive exercises -- such as walking, indoor bicycling, and activities such as folding laundry -- may decrease anxiety in people with Alzheimer's disease because they don't have to make decisions about the activity or remember what to do next. While exercise does not stop Alzheimer's disease from progressing, patients do receive the emotional satisfaction of feeling they have accomplished something.
You should check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Your doctor may make recommendations about:
Sundowning, or sundown syndrome, affects some people who have Alzheimer's disease and dementia. People with dementia who "sundown" get confused and agitated as the sun goes down -- and sometimes through the night.
Sundowning may prevent people with dementia from sleeping well. It may also make them more likely to wander. Due to the stress it puts on caregivers, sundowning is a common cause of caregiver burnout.
The types of exercise best suited to you and those to avoid
How hard you should be working out
How long you should work out
Referrals to other professionals, such as a physical therapist, who can help you create your own personal exercise program
The type of exercise that works best for you depends on your symptoms, fitness level, and overall health. The final precaution, when you get the OK to begin exercising, is to go slowly.
Tips for Exercise
Always warm up before beginning your exercise routine and cool down at the end.
If you plan to work out for 30 minutes, start with 10-minute sessions and work your way up.
Try swimming and water aerobics. These exercises are often easier on the joints and require less balance.
Work out in a safe environment; avoid slippery floors, poor lighting, throw rugs, and other potential dangers.
If you have difficulty maintaining your balance, exercise within reach of a grab bar or rail. If you have trouble standing or getting up, try to exercise on the bed rather than on the floor or an exercise mat.
If at any time you feel sick or you begin to hurt, STOP the activity.
Most of all, select a hobby or activity you enjoy and stick with it.
Some suggestions include: gardening, walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and Tai Chi.