“I hear that exercise is good for preventing dementia. Is that right?” – Sam from Ringgold

SCO Blog June 2016

Thank you so much for your question.

Dementia is a very scary and frequently seen diagnosis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone develops the disease every 66 seconds in the United States. Statistics show that 1 in 9 over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s Disease and there are now over 5 million Americans who are living with the disease – as well as the effects of the diagnosis on all those providing care to those individuals. The number of people living with the disease is expected to nearly triple (if there is no cure) by 2050.

Exercise is beneficial regardless of diagnosis or potential diagnosis. Nevertheless, it can be beneficial to get medical clearance and guidance regarding exercise if currently diagnosed with heart problems, dizziness, bone/joint problems, breathing problems, excessive pain, or a heightened fall risk. It will be helpful to discuss what potential modifications may need to be made regarding what is most beneficial for one’s current abilities and limitations. Activities should always be suitable and enjoyable for the person at their own level of cognitive, emotional, and physical abilities.

For the prevention of dementia and also the maintenance of abilities in the earlier stages of dementia, studies are showing that exercise has tremendous benefits. Research shows that “anything good for the heart is good for the mind.” So, aerobic exercise can be incredibly beneficial. These exercises may include any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature – according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

There are also benefits to socially-based exercises – such as the reduction of isolation risk and promotion of accountability and support. Also, researchers are finding that exercise types which focus on the mastery of a skill or set of skills – such as Tai Chi or Yoga – and those involving weight training, flexibility, and balance are showing positive results such as reduced volume loss in the brain over time.

Exercise is good for the heart and affiliated issues, reduces the risk of a variety of cancers, maintains strong muscles and flexible joints, reduces the risk of diabetes, maintains one’s ability to perform their activities of daily living and promotes independence (such as grooming and dressing), reduces osteoporosis risk, provides opportunities of socialization, increases mood and self-esteem, and improves sleep. What’s not to love!?!?! If it also helps in slowing down the risk of cognitive decline – why not?

Wishing the best to you and yours!   Lisa

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