Physical and Mental Exercise for Alzheimer’s Patients

Studies have proven that exercise reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  And not only that, but regular physical activity can improve the performance of daily activities for those who already have Alzheimer’s disease.  Since there is no cure currently for Alzheimer’s disease, prevention is the best tool that we have.  And exercise is a practical and economical way to do that.  But there are two different types of exercises that will help Alzheimer’s patients: physical exercise and mental exercise.  If you want to maintain the strength and vitality of your brain as you age, you must take a proactive role. Just as your body needs strength-building exercise to keep your muscles fit, so does your brain.

Physical Exercise:

Regular physical exercise can decrease your chance of getting Alzheimer’s by up to 50%!  Research also suggests that exercise helps reduce depression and reduce restlessness and wandering in Alzheimer’s patients.  In order to maintain your cognitive fitness and prevent Alzheimer’s, research suggests you need at least 150 minutes per week of a mix of cardio and strength training exercises.  Not sure what to do?  Here are some suggestions for your cardio portion of your workout:

  • Dancing
  • Walking
  • Jogging/running
  • Playing tennis
  • High intensity interval training
  • Going to the gym and using an elliptical machine, a stationary bike, or a treadmill
  • Balance and toning activities such as yoga

As for strength training, make sure you are working that into your regular routines as well.  Strength training includes:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using resistance machines
  • Isometrics
  • Pilates
  • Certain exercise classes that utilize weights, such as: body pump, TRX, etc.

But physical exercise isn’t all you need to combat Alzheimer’s disease: you also need brain aerobics!  

Mental Exercise:

Mental exercise can decrease your chance of getting Alzheimer’s by up to 70%!  You should spend 20 minutes at least three times a week performing some mental aerobics.  

Studies show that when people engage in moderate, pleasant forms of mental exercise, their knowledge, as well as the efficiency and power of their brains, increases.  Mental exercises are any exercises that challenge your brain with novel tasks.  In order to be considered a brain aerobic, three criteria must be met.  The activity must:

  1. Engage your attention
  2. Involve more than one of your senses
  3. Break a routine in an unexpected way

Some examples of mental aerobics or exercise are:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Playing board games
  • Doing crossword puzzles
  • In your office or at home, open a drawer, find five to ten things and memorize them. Come back a few minutes later and write down what you memorized. Look in the drawer and check if you are correct.
  • While grocery shopping, go down the cereal aisle and memorize the first five cereals. Come back ten minutes later and see if you have remembered them correctly.
  • Look at the financial page of the newspaper. Memorize five of the stock quotes, then go and do something else. Come back five to ten minutes later and write the quotes down on a piece of paper. See how many you got right.
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Sing your favorite songs while out on a walk
  • Discuss current events with a friend
  • Puzzles
  • Read a book WHILE riding an exercise bike
  • Learn a new language

A healthy mind and body relationship is the key to unlocking, activating, and sustaining brain power for our entire lifetime. That is why it is so important for us to stay both mentally and physically fit, while also making sure to eat a healthy diet and keeping our stress levels low.  Taking the 45 minutes a day it requires to keep your brain and your body fit is worth the effort to live a long and healthy life.