March 23rd, 2012 at 1:03 pm
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Can elderly exercise stop dementia-related deaths?

by Dorian Martin

It’s never too late to start exercising. And seniors may want to embrace physical activity in order to maintain their mental capacity (as well as their physical health). Here’s the reason — a new study published in the February 2012 edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that those who achieved at least a medium state of fitness were less likely to die from a dementia-related death.

The study followed 60,000 participants, ages of 20-88, over a 17-year period. At the start of this study, researchers grouped participants into three fitness categories: low, middle and high. One-hundred-sixty-four study participants died due to some form of dementia. Of those, 123 participants had low fitness levels whereas 23 had middle-fitness levels and 18 had high-fitness levels.

Elderly exercise: it does the body good

That’s good news about the potential impact of physical activity, but elders who want to exercise more need to be cautious. The NIH Senior Health warns that elders who haven’t exercised in a long time need to start slowly and aim to first maintain a low level of effort before increasing their exercise intensity. Furthermore, a doctor should be consulted prior to the start of any exercise program if the elder is at high risk for a chronic disease (such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease), smokes, is obese, or has chest pain, an irregular heart beat, shortness of breath or any other undiagnosed symptom. The doctor also should be consulted if the elder has had hip or back surgery.

Elderly exercise tips

  1. The best exercise program for elders is one that can be incorporated into their daily lives
  2. These activities should appeal to the elder and suit his or her lifestyle, budget and health
  3. The elder can exercise several short times during the day or may opt to set aside a specific time to exercise during most days of the week
  4. Exercise resources may be available through the senior center or the local library (where exercises videos or DVDS can be checked out)
  5. Some communities offer senior fitness classes in yoga, Tai Chi and “Sit and Fit” exercises

The NIH also encourages elders to vary their exercises by incorporating endurance (such as dancing), strength (such as weight-lifting), flexibility (such as yoga) and balance (such as Tai Chi) training. This variety both benefits the elder’s body and reduces the risk of injury. So my advice to caregivers is to encourage your loved ones to start exercising again. Physical activity really can help an elder maintain a quality lifestyle through supporting both the body and the mind.

Posted in Dementia, Exercise | 3 Comments »
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3 Comments to “Can elderly exercise stop dementia-related deaths?”

  1. Dementia Care

    I was also pleasantly surprised to see weight training as a recommendation for older women. Far too many women look at weight training as something that will make them “bulky,” but the truth is, it makes people lean and muscular. Outside the realm of extreme cases, having more muscle usually means a longer and better quality of life. It’s amazing the way proper exercise can effectively slow the aging process in people.

  2. Beatrix Lewis

    This is challenging for seniors because most of them are probably having problems with their mobility already. But with the benefits they can get, I’m pretty sure seniors would get encouraged and do whatever it takes just to stop dementia and related deaths.

  3. Tony Rovere

    Most people tend to ’shut down’ later in life, losing their zest for activity…but more and more studies like this show that the only reason the human body shuts down is due to neglect…not from overuse.

    Physical fitness for seniors doesn’t have to be anything strenuous…a brisk walk around the block is enough.

    But I was thrilled to see the strength training recommendation, especially for women, that was in this article.

    By strength training you will be able to maintain or build muscle mass that will allow your body to burn more calories, keep your bones stronger and keep you healthier throughout your life.

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