Best Dementia Exercises for Older Adults

Adults with dementia have a higher risk of injuries because they are more likely to become dizzy, have trouble with physical coordination, and fall. Yet, physical activity is also important for people with dementia because it can help combat some symptoms of this disease.

Exercise is a core dimension of well-being and helps increase positive markers for both physical and mental health. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best dementia exercises with your loved one so they can maintain dignity, health, confidence, and satisfaction for many years to come. 

Older Adult woman uses exercise resistant bands

How To Select Dementia Exercises With Your Loved One

Most people living with cognitive decline experience the symptoms and trajectory differently from one another. That’s why an individualized plan of care is critical to help your loved one live their best life while dealing with dementia. 

The same goes for creating an exercise plan. The level and complexity of physical activity should suit your loved one and match where they are on their journey with dementia.

Choosing the Right Activity Level

Choosing exercises for dementia sufferers can be tricky because you need to think about their physical abilities, lifestyle, and how advanced their condition is. Exercises range from less intensive to vigorous. For example, walking around the block and doing gentle stretches at home may be suitable for someone with more advanced dementia or someone who hasn’t been physically active in a long time. Bicycling and dancing may be more appropriate for someone who has always lived an active lifestyle.

No matter what type of activity your loved one with dementia decides to do, it’s important to choose the appropriate level. Simply staying balanced in a standing position can be a challenging exercise. Others may be able to perform more advanced exercises until their disease progresses. Use your discretion to ensure the person with dementia can safely perform the chosen exercises.

Looking at Environment and Fitness Needs

Two other factors you should consider when you and your loved one are discussing exercise are environment and their fitness needs. If your loved one still lives at home, they may have the freedom to buy a comfortable bicycle, go to a tennis court, swim at a community pool, and more. Assisted living facilities may have fewer or more amenities than your loved one’s neighborhood and home. Always take into account what is possible when brainstorming ideas.

While many forms of exercise have more than one benefit, you can think of physical activities as falling into these four categories:

  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Cardio

Talk with your loved one and their healthcare provider about their fitness needs before settling on a set of activities for them. Their doctor may want your loved one to focus on improving balance so that they reduce their risk of falls, or they may recommend a strength-training program for weight management.

Dementia Exercises for Everyone

Regardless of your loved one’s abilities and condition, there is some form of activity that will work for them. Sometimes it’s best to engage in various activities throughout the week. This can help your loved one maintain interest and satisfaction with their daily routines.

The following list of exercises for dementia patients is organized from least intensive to moderate. Always consult your loved one’s health provider before embarking on a new fitness journey.

Seated Exercises

For some people with advanced cognitive decline and other health concerns, staying seated is the safest option. There is a surprising variety of seated exercises for dementia patients, including:

  • Neck and shoulder stretch
  • Sit to stand
  • Leg extensions
  • Arm raises
  • Abdominal twists
  • Tricep dips
  • Supported one-leg balance

If your loved one has a hard time remembering to exercise on their own, you can do these moves together or over a video call. Even though your loved one will complete these movements while seated or holding on to a chair, these exercises are still worthwhile and provide benefits such as increased flexibility, better muscle tone, and reduced stress.

Everyday Activities

If your loved one is mobile but struggles with sticking to an exercise routine, don’t discount the benefit of everyday activities. Many movements that occur within and around the house can count as dementia fitness when done regularly and intentionally, including: 

  • Doing household chores
  • Going up and down stairs
  • Bringing in groceries
  • Taking the dog for a walk
  • Caring for a garden

Walking is a fantastic activity for people living with dementia and doing it for as little as 20 minutes per day can have a positive impact on your loved one’s health. Walking outdoors has the added benefit of fresh air and sunlight exposure. However, this activity might have to be supervised if your loved one is at risk of getting lost.

Daily activities, such as caring for a garden, can be sufficient exercise for dementia patients.

Gentle Cardio and Stretching

If your loved one is interested in moderate-level exercise, you can introduce them to tai chi, yoga, or a dance class for older adults. These forms of exercise can be performed alone or in a group. They involve standing, balancing, stretching, and gentle cardio. Taking part in group classes is also a great way to interact with people and make new friends.

Using stationary bikes and ellipticals is a great way to improve cardiovascular and muscular health by doing low-impact movements. It may be worth it to purchase a machine for the home, but your loved one can also join a gym to access these machines.

Strength Training

Strength training can help combat bone loss in older age and building muscle helps with balance and weight management. Dementia-safe strength exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Plank
  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Tricep dips

These movements can be performed with or without free weights. Using your body weight is a great way to engage your muscles without risking injury.

Holistic Care Includes Dementia Exercises

When it comes time to consider long-term care for your loved one, look carefully at your options and inquire about how the facility or organization prioritizes residents’ dignity and well-being. A holistic approach to care includes embracing dementia exercises that keep residents safe while providing options for physical activity. Schedule a visit to explore our memory-care facilities and learn more about our mission to provide dignified, holistic care for people living with dementia.

For help or more information contact us or schedule a visit at a location today.