Tips on Matching Exercise to People with Alzheimer's

Christine Kennard Health Pro
  • People with Alzheimer's are as varied as people in any walk of life. They have a variety of different lifestyles and have diverse life histories. So, choosing any activity has to be carefully matched to the individual. In this sharepost I have put together some important tips on how to choose activities that provide important exercise for people with Alzheimer's disease.



    Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.


    Knowing what they liked and disliked previously is very important if an activity is going to be successful and provide motivation for regular sessions that have exercise as their central theme.

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    • Knowing what people did before they had Alzheimer's and what they enjoyed can feed into residual memory, habits and behavior.
    • Knowing how they enjoyed it is important too. You have to find out, whether they were competitive? Did they strive to achieve? Did they prefer to watch activities? Was social interaction, talking/seeing friends/being somewhere familiar, just as important as the activity itself?  So a group activity with rewards may suit one person but not another.
    • Emotional issues can often change as people progress through the stages of Alzheimer's. Initial fears of acceptance in the early stage can morph into issues of accepting help and dependency in the mid and late stages of the disease.
    • Be flexible and change an exercise activity if the person with Alzheimer's is not engaging well in it. It is also good that activities take place on a regular basis.

    How Cognitive Function Impacts on Exercise Activities


    Alzheimer's disease is a disease of cognitive functioning. Cognition is a term that covers the brain's abilities to enable a person to perform complex internal mental processes and interactions with the environment. Problem solving, thinking, memory and judgement are all aspects of cognition. When a disease such as Alzheimer's affects someone's cognitive abilities, the caregiver's plans have to accommodate those difficulties. Tips on planning and doing exercise activities:

    • The length of time since the onset of Alzheimer's disease is not a reliable way to plan any therapeutic activity, including exercise. Stages of Alzheimer's relates more to skills loss than the passage of time.
    • Learning new things is difficult at all stages of the Alzheimer's.
    • An interesting model to base activities on is to adapt influential U.S. psychologist Jean Piaget's model of childhood development. Reversing the stages of childhood to cognition and therapeutic activities can help provide a framework for your exercise ideas. You can find out more about this simple idea in a sharepost called Different Stages of Alzheimer's Requires Different Methods of Caregiving

     Physical Disabilities Will Affect and Limit Physical Activities

    • Finally, and something you will already know, you need to take make sure that the activity you are about to plan and offer to someone with Alzheimer's is appropriate to that individual.
    • I find an important point to remember is that what an elderly person is physically capable of doing on one day may be too much for them on another.
    • Weather conditions are important to old people with various diseases such as respiratory (asthma, COPD, cancer and others) and heart conditions such as Congestive cardiac disease, strokes and many other diseases and conditions. Be flexible and change the type of exercise if it is causing any physical or psychological distress.

    More on Exercise, Activities and Alzheimer's Disease

  •  Exercise Improves Cognitive Function

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    Exercise May Slow Brain Shrinkage In Alzheimer's Patients

    Yoga for People with Alzheimer's is Showing Quality of Life Benefits


Published On: April 27, 2010