Feb 13, 2018

Exercise Calms Agitation Associated with Dementia and Alzheimer's

Agitation and the ability to function improved in a group of elderly nursing home residents suffering from severe dementia when they engaged in just 30 minutes of supervised exercise three times a week.

Dementia patients become less agitated and easier to manage when they exercise.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

If you put the word exercise in the search box on the right hand side of this page you will find we have numerous articles in our knowledge base on the importance and effectiveness of exercise in Alzheimer's and dementia care.

I believe one of the most important things to do with or for a person living with Alzheimer's disease is to exercise. The transformation my mother would undergo after exercising was really amazing to see.

Exercise is one of the main reasons I was able to transform my mother from being very mean and angry into a person more like her former self -- before Alzheimer's.

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I can tell you this. My mother walked at the pace of a snail and was falling down all the time before we started exercising 5 times a week.

When my mother walked she held on to anything she could grab. This included when I held her hand, or, when she held on to my arm. The walls, a hedge, the hood of car -- you name it. You might be having a similar experience.

Please note. My mother never used a walker. Once I got her into an exercise regimen she never fell. She stopped falling. Exercise really made a big difference for us.

I think she kept walking without a walker because of the exercise on the treadmill.

I also worked my mother out on weight machines in the gym. Did I mention that I first took my mother into the gym was she was 88 years old?

Exercise calms agitation associated with dementia

In a pilot research study, agitation and functioning improved in a group of elderly nursing home residents living with severe dementia when they engaged in just 30 minutes of supervised exercise three times a week.

Edris Aman at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, who conducted the study, told Reuters Health:
"Lots of people just assume that people with this kind of (severe) dementia cannot follow exercise instructions, but they can. It just takes more patience on the part of the exercise coordinator -- me in this case."

Aman said his study was unique because it involved people suffering from severe dementia who were living in the "special needs" units of two nursing homes. The 50 study participants, whose average age was 79, performed 15 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 minutes of weight lifting three times a week.
  • "Before and after" tests revealed that patients were far less agitated after completing the 3-week exercise program. They also showed significant improvement in their functional status -- specifically, the distance they could walk in six minutes.
The take-home message, Aman said, is that
"exercise benefits all; even those with severe dementia can reap the benefits of exercise if people are patient enough."
The experience described in the study was similar for my mom. She had a better attitude as we were leaving the gym, and she did walk without assistance and without holding on to anything as we went out of the gym. She was also standing up straighter.

A 5 times a week exercise program is well worth considering. Not only did it help my mom, it helped me also. It helped reduce stress and anxiety, and I also had a better attitude.

Around the same time, I also introduced the Mediterranean Diet into our daily routine.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.

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