Exercise as a Gift to Yourself

Exercise as a Gift to Yourself

As the days get shorter, you may find your desire to do physical exercise is decreasing as well. Folks have coined Oct 31-Jan 2 as the eating season. So we have less sunlight to encourage exercise, more intake of calories and an uptick on homemade coziness–a trifecta that is known to affect both mental and physical health. 

Why not look at exercise as a gift to yourself?  A gift that is given long before the gift-giving season, but that will make that season more enjoyable and you healthier.  Change is in the air, so perhaps you decide to try an online video that you have seen or a new class at the local community center.  It might be dancing, or tai chi or join the Silver Sneakers group. 

Research shows that those of us living with early dementia have perceived facilitators and barriers to exercise.1 This qualitative study revealed three themes that were barriers and influencers. The individual with early dementia reported low intrinsic motivation and an overall non-fit of resources to their needs and preferences. The care partner used poor physical/cognitive health and transportation as influential motivators. But motivation may be in short supply . . .

Caregivers— did you know that research is showing exercise as a great non-pharmacological intervention for improving global and specific cognitive function?  In a review of research conducted in nursing homes, it was found that exercise in combination with cognitive training and activities of daily living played a significant role in improving cognitive function.2 The research quantified the amount of exercise as 30 minutes a day.  Within 8 weeks of combined intervention.  Considering this is nursing home research, it is likely that those improvements were in folks who were in moderate to later stages.

Maybe 30 minutes seems like a long time.  Consider ways to up the amount of physical exercise by:

  • Parking the car further from the store
  • Taking the steps instead of the elevator
  • Walking the dog one more block or one more time
  • Dancing to a few songs on the radio

We may not be at the stage of life to take on a marathon training program, but we would benefit from upping our physical activity game. Always with a doctor weighing in on your choices. Once your physician agrees to your plan, start with a low number of minutes and slowly build up to what has been medically approved as an ideal goal.

Consider it as a gift to yourself and to your loved one—your brain and body will be grateful.

Footnotes

1Hobson, N., Dupuis, S.L., Giangregorio, L. M., & Middleton, L. E. (2019).  Perceived facilitators and barriers to exercise among older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment and early dementia, Journal of Aging & Physical Activity, 24:1-11.

2Yorozuya, K., Kubo, Y., Tomiyama, N., Yamane, S., & Hanaoka, H. (2019). A systematic review of multimodal non-pharmacological interventions for cognitive function in older people with dementia in nursing homes, Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 21:1-16.

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About Cate

Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.
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