How a Biceps Curl Helped an Alzheimer’s Patient
There is so much power attached to exercise regarding all our bodily processes. In addition, exercise exercises the brain in ways not fully understood by scientists. In recent years neuroscientists have touted the advantages of working out for brain health - neuroplasticity which manufactures new brain cells and enhances synaptic connections. In the hope of preventing or at least postponing Alzheimer’s people are urged to exercise which includes aerobics as well as strength training since both carry different benefits for the brain. Yet it is worthwhile to consider the life quality, especially the brain quality, for those currently afflicted with Alzheimer’s who exercise.
A certified trainer, Heidi Richman-Litt, who specializes in group exercise for seniors and 1on 1 training for Alzheimer’s patients at Life Fitness Clubs in Long Island, NY, shares some of her remarkable observations about the brain benefits of a physical workout. One of her long time clients who is about 88 years old and has had Alzheimer’s for over a decade shows a heightened responsiveness when she exercises:
“I will begin a workout with my client; although she smiles in some sort of recognition, she often doesn’t remember my name. Then I put a one pound weight in each hand and guide her into doing biceps curls. After doing a set of 8, she will burst out, ‘Hi Heidi.’ She becomes more enthusiastic and her mood improves. Other days, my client might be sluggish, stubbornly refusing to do her workout with ‘I’m too old for this.’ I gently guide her to walk around her dining room table and into the living room. I will help her do another strength training movement. Soon she forgets about her fatigue and will start talking, smiling and rotating her hips to dance. One moment she was tired and the next one she is primed to exercise.
Continuing, she and I walk around looking at photos of her late husband and the familiar faces of her children and grandchildren. She loves this walking tour. We conclude our workout with a special treat: A lineup of Chantilly Lane stuffed animals who sing happy songs. She loves this ritual in particular. She names the stuffed animal, like Smiley dog, and sings along. Then she proceeds to name the next one and so on. When we finish our workout, she is stimulated, happy and hungry. Things she couldn’t remember during the workout like if she ate breakfast, she now remembers that not only did she eat, but she is ready for lunch!”
Movement matters. It’s time to mind your muscle! And if you are a caregiver, work out to manage your stress and release good energy.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show