Most of us know that regular exercise is important for our health. It’s good for us physically and also makes us feel better emotionally. What we haven’t known until recently is that it is most likely vital for brain health. Lots of science is happening right now on that subject.
In the past, Mom filled some of her free time playing golf. We were proud of her when she branched out and took some tennis lessons, but she took one swing and her teacher told her to go back to golf. We laughed about that for years. She was pretty good at getting to 24 Hour Fitness for some exercise classes which she also enjoyed. Mom wasn’t an athlete by any stretch, but she did get some exercise.
Later, when Mom was experiencing the beginning and middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, we all knew instinctively that she should continue getting some exercise. Golf was no longer an option and even her walking was getting a little slower. When someone has Alzheimer’s it gets a little more challenging to find ways to exercise.
At Mom’s assisted living facility, there were some group classes that residents could participate in while standing or sitting in a chair. For some people, that was perfect. Our family suggested that she join the fun. She would feel better, get some endorphins going, and stay in good shape.
No deal. She had absolutely no interest in those group classes.
We had to come up with a plan B. We found two ways to get her moving. One was to hire a caregiver who would take her out for walks, shopping and fresh air three afternoons per week. That was excellent and will be the subject of some future blogs. The other way was to make room for an exercise bike.
We were lucky that it would fit in her little living room and we found one that didn’t require any instructions or buttons to push. It was stable and comfortable. Did Mom use it every day? No. But when she was encouraged to hop on and pedal, she did so gladly. It was a hit and it made her feel good.
The exercise bike was not the most fashionable room accessory, but in our world of living with Mom’s Alzheimer’s disease, anything that contributed to Mom’s good health and brought a smile to her face was worth every dime and also every square inch of room space.
Go Mom go!
The Alzheimer’s Society has a good article on the benefits of exercise for all stages of Alzheimer’s disease: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=1764
The Mayo Clinic: Can Exercise Prevent Memory Loss? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers
A study by Dr. Laura D. Baker, Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Neurology at Wake Forrest School of Medicine found that, “A potent lifestyle intervention such as aerobic exercise can impact Alzheimer’s-related changes in the brain,” Baker said. “No currently approved medication can rival these effects.” http://www.wakehealth.edu/News Releases/2015/GOING_BEYOND_RISK_REDUCTION__PHYSICAL_EXERCISE_
The institute at the University of California Irvine called UCI MIND is conducting a study on the effects of aerobic exercise on people who have been diagnosed with MCI. https://www.mind.uci.edu/research/clinical-trials/exert-study/