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Feb 4, 2009 2:00 PM  CST  



We all know or have heard that exercise is beneficial for healthy living but is it really worth your time? Here is a small list of reasons you may want to give exercise a try: it decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, fall incidence, numerous forms of cancer and depression. Exercise can be used for stress relief and also to maintain health and the ability to perform activities of daily living such as bathing, getting the mail and making the bed. However, if you spend a lot of your time taking care of a loved one you are likely tired and really treasure your rest time. Well here is more good news: exercise can actually decrease the amount of sleep you need and increase your energy level! Have I convinced you yet? One more important note, it can help the one’s you love who have Alzheimer’s to continue with their normal daily activities and may even slow the progression of their disease.

There are lots of types of exercise and different aspects of health are maintained or improved by the various types of exercise. An example is: swimming is really good for your heart but it does not help to maintain bone density. Another example is weight training exercises help maintain bone density and muscle but do not help the heart and lungs. So, doing a variety of exercise is important; if you have to choose: any type of exercise is better than doing none. Choosing what to do, knowing that you will be safe and will not wake-up sore or with injuries tomorrow is another story. As always it is important to have your doctor’s consent before beginning an exercise program. Check with them and then begin. Start gently with a few repetitions and build up. Remember any exercise is better than doing nothing at all.

With all that said, here are some exercises for Relaxation and Muscle and Bone Health. My intention is that these are simple effective exercises most of which you can do with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s. The exercises are in a good order if you choose to do them all at once. Feel free to do them individually if that works better for you. Begin doing the exercises five times each. Then progress up to 10 and 15 repetitions- this progression may take a month or more. If you want to continue adding you can do multiple sets of 10 (plus or minus).


§Diaphragmatic breathing: Sitting tall with your best posture, put your hands on your abdomen below your ribs and above your naval. Inhale and expand your abdomen to pull the air in (rather than lifting your chest and shoulders). Hold the air in for a second or two. As you release your breath compress your abdomen to press the air out. Your hands are a guide you should feel them move out and away from your spine as you inhale and in toward your spine as you exhale. Take 5 or 6 slow breaths like this.

A variation of the above exercise is to do the same breathing but start with your hands hanging down at your sides. As you inhale raise them up, out to the sides and then over head and as you exhale lower them to your lap in front. (this is also great for coordination, and following directions)

§Shoulder shrugs: Sitting tall with your best posture, hands rest on your lap. Shrug your shoulders up tightly toward your neck, chin stays level with the floor. Hold the shrug for 6 to 10 seconds and then release (breathe steadily, even while shrugging). Repeat this 5 or 6 times.

Muscle and Bone:

§Squat: (for leg strength- example getting up from a low couch or the commode) Begin standing in front of a chair with your feet as wide as the chair feet. Arms hang naturally at your sides. Bend your knees and hips simultaneously lowering as far as you can toward the chair now stand back up (if you need to, press on the chair arms with your hands to help rise but use them as little as possible). Repeat this exercise 5 to 15 times. Try starting with five and increase over time.

§Inside leg lift: (balance and leg strength: example- one leg balance and flexibility to tie shoes or put on sox) Begin sitting with your best posture. Keep your left foot flat on the floor and move your right leg out to a 45 degree angle from this position lift your right leg up on an angle moving your foot towards you left knee. Move it back down and repeat 5 to 15 times, then do the other side (move slowly and keep good posture).

§Chair march: (leg strength and balance: example- stair climbing and maintaining balance while sitting and stepping over objects) Begin sitting with your best posture. Slowly march. Be sure to control the movement of your torso, maintain good posture. March for intervals1-3 minutes. Experiment, varying the height you lift your knee.

§Heel raises and toe raises: (ankle strength, balance and coordination: example- walking, stair climbing and standing balance) Begin sitting with your best posture. Feet begin flat on the floor. Alternate lifting one heel and the toes of the other foot, switch. Do 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.

§Chair sit-ups: (lower back and abdominal strength: example- maintaining good posture) Begin sitting with your best posture. Scoot to the front 1/3 of the chair seat, keep knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. With good posture and a straight back lean back toward the chair back, do not rest on the chair back, sit back up. If your feet lift off the floor do not lean back as far in the chair before sitting up again. Repeat this exercise 5 to 15 times (maintain good posture while moving).

§Chair alternating hand to knee touch: (lower back and abdominal strength: example- maintain good posture and coordination) Begin sitting with your best posture. Scoot to the front 1/3 of the chair seat. Raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder level and bend your elbows so that hands are up. Move right hand across your toward your left knee at the same time lift your left leg to meet your hand. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side. Move slowly and controlled; do not bend or twist your waist. Repeat this exercise 5 to 15 times on each side.

§Matching hands: (arm and shoulder flexibility, strength and coordination: example- putting arms in the sleeves of a jackets and shirts or reaching to high shelves) This can be done sitting close- knee to knee or standing facing each other. It takes two people. Place palms of hands together: right hand to partner’s left and left hand to partner’s right. Move slowly: hands move up over head until elbows are extended and then down together so elbows bend. Or, keep hands right at armpit level and alternate pushing and giving, you can give some resistance on this one to make your partner work a little harder. u
“I wish you the best in health!”

By: Carmen Boulton, Exercise Physiologist

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For additional information on this Newsletter article, please contact:

Dawn Hood Patterson
(850) 478-7790


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