New research shows daily exercise wards off dementia
How physical activity affects cognitive health
Last April, a Boston School of Medicine study revealed a link between light-intensity aerobic exercise and increased brain volume. The findings came as promising news for seniors, as just one hour a day could equate to 1.1 years less brain aging.
Although the initial research failed to pinpoint any specific guidelines for dementia patients, experts are now diving deeper into the matter. New data suggests that individuals with cognitive challenges can benefit from daily exercise—even when those activities are below the per-day minimum recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The majority of seniors have a difficult time meeting the proposed per-day amount for healthy physical activity. Factor in more complex challenges related to Alzheimer’s and dementia, and rigorous exercise is even more impractical (and potentially dangerous). Still, nursing homes can employ a number of strategies for encouraging daily exercise among patients in the early to middle stages of memory loss.
Beyond walking, dementia experts say any kind of moderate to vigorous movement—for roughly 10 to 20 minutes per day—helps boost cognitive health. To meet seniors’ typical level of ability and prevent injury, consider the following:
Gardening – Whether indoor or outside, light planting, weeding, pruning and harvesting require an ideal amount of exertion
Dancing – Individuals may move solo or in groups; leaders can also integrate ribbons, balls, balloons and other fun accessories
Seated activities – When other forms of exercise are too arduous, keep residents in their seats to boost arm muscle strength and balance
Swimming – Supervised water activities are particularly beneficial, as they eliminate fall risk and provide a calming experience
Restorative yoga – As a gentle low-intensity form of the popular exercise, residents enhance their flexibility, mobility and posture