Engaging in regular physical activity stands out as one of the most effective ways to lower your risk of developing dementia. Numerous studies focusing on the impacts of aerobic exercise, which elevates your heart rate, particularly in middle-aged or older individuals, have shown enhancements in cognitive functions and memory. These studies also indicate a decrease in the incidence of dementia. However, it can be challenging to get enough exercise, especially as you age. Here we have listed several types of exercise that can be enjoyed at all ages and fitness levels.
Gardening is a physical activity that provides an opportunity to get outdoors and is enjoyed by many people. The activity level can be varied to suit someone’s abilities. It could be something that requires less exertion like weeding or pruning, or a more strenuous activity like raking or mowing grass. These activities may help strengthen the body’s muscles and improve cardiovascular health. Gardening can be an enjoyable activity for people of all ages.
Dancing can range from couple or group sessions to more improvised movement involving ribbons, balloons or balls. Dancing can also be done in a seated position. This is a very social activity and an enjoyable way to participate in exercise. It can increase strength and flexibility, help with staying steady and agile, and reduce stress.
People with dementia can benefit from a regular program of seated exercise sessions at home or with a group at a local class. It is often a good idea to see these exercises demonstrated at least once by an instructor or on a video. These exercises are aimed at building or maintaining muscle strength and balance, and are less difficult than exercises in a standing position. You can start low and increase the number of repetitions of each exercise over time. Some examples of seated exercises include:
- turning the upper body from side to side
- raising the heels and toes
- raising the arms towards the ceiling
- raising the opposite arm and leg
- bending the legs
- clapping under the legs
- bicycling the legs
- making circles with the arms
- practicing moving from sitting to standing
Swimming is a great activity for older people. Many people find the sensation of being in the water soothing and calming. Some studies have also shown that swimming may improve balance and reduce the risk of falls. It is a low impact exercise that does not put stress on the hips or knees.
Tai chi and qigong are gentle forms of Chinese martial arts that combine simple physical movements and meditation, with the aim of improving balance and health. The movements concentrate on a series of integrated exercises. These forms of exercise focus on balance and stability, which are important in staying agile and may reduce the risk of falls. You can search for classes in your area or find instructions online.
Walking suits all abilities. It is free, does not need any special equipment, and can be done anywhere. The distance and time spent walking can be varied to suit all fitness levels. Some local clubs or other organizations often arrange group walks of various lengths, so it can also be a fun social activity.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. “Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.” alzheimer.ca/stages.
Department of Health. “Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults.”
National Institute on Aging. “Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet.” nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet.