Physical exercise helps to prevent or at least slow down physical deterioration and mental deterioration. The latest research in exercise physiology demonstrates that Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers benefit by a routine fitness program. Exercising everyday will reduce colds and infections, increase independent function, improve life quality and most importantly elevate mood. Use ADL (Activities for Daily Living) Training to increase independence. The immediate goals are: eating, housekeeping and personal hygiene. Sixty percent of caregivers have some depressive symptoms, and one third develop major depressions. Exercise presents a natural, healthy way to cheer up. The side effects are happiness and a loving disposition - a great bonding experience. Take back your power with exercise.
To get the most out of an Alzheimer’s workout there must be constant supervision with a knowledgeable exercise partner. Future articles will provide greater details for executing specific exercises for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers. Here are some basic concepts for designing or evaluating an exercise program for Silver Sneakers:
- Use visual and auditory clues when exercising with an Alzheimer’s patient. Everyone learns differently. Some people learn by hearing the instructions; others learn by seeing you demonstrate and do the exercise alongside them.
- Keep exercise within tolerable limits. Begin with 15 or 20 minutes. Build up to 45 minutes. Be patient with progress.
- Hand and Finger exercises create greater dexterity and improve hand-eye coordination. Flip a quarter on a table. Touch each finger to the thumb.
- Focus exercises on function: Biceps curls to carry, front shoulder raises for range of motion, back exercises for good posture. Heel and toe exercises while seated to improve walking.
- Balance training: to avoid falls by increasing core stability. The branches of a tree are as strong as its trunk. You can lean against a wall or hold on to a chair while doing leg extensions or a hip stretch.
- Stimulate the brain by doing coordinated foot and arm movements while seated on a chair. Chair workouts are great because they prevent falls during a workout. For example: chair kicks, chair knee lifts, chair toe touches, side step touches, chair grapevines, and single- single- doubles arm raises.
- You don’t need fancy equipment; you can use balloons 2/3 filled with warm water for resistance or even beach balls. Squeeze or lift to increase strength in each arm.
- Stimulate the senses. Use bright colors in the workout. Experiment with different aromas each time. Smell evokes memory. Play music from the past, a time period with familiar songs. Use appropriate music speed. You don’t want to make it too fast.
- Be aware of emotional issues. Observe and be alert for expressions of anger or frustration about not being able to do certain things. Offer encouraging words and use humor to restore emotional balance. You will be pleasantly surprised that exercises which can’t be done today will be done in the next few sessions.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com