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Preventative healthcare: Exercise has been shown to delay cognitive decline by as much as 10–15 years
eric b larson andrew ketteringham
executive director • group health research institute, seattle director of external affairs • alzheimer’s society
“O
ur research shows that people
who exercise three or more “E
xercise certainly has a role to
play in improving the quality
times a week have about a 35 per cent of life of people in care homes. It can
reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s encourage mobility, reduce stress and
disease during a six-year follow up study. depression and empower people, giving
Exercise also preserves leg strength and them a real sense of purpose. It can
balance, keeping people ambulatory for also improve circulation, increasing the
longer and reducing the risk of falls. It amount of oxygen being pumped to the
seems to lessen the risk of agitation too. brain, which can help slow the symptoms
The fitness industry would do well to develop [exercise] of dementia. However, while some care homes already offer a
programmes, for national health services and care homes, that varied programme of activities, this is not always the case.
cater to older people – and possibly special programmes for An Alzheimer’s Society survey found that the average person
dementia sufferers and their care-givers. Such programmes in a care home spent just two minutes of every six hours
should be geared towards functionality before they’re confined interacting with any other person, excluding care tasks. We all
to chair-based activities. These need to involve aerobic fitness have a role to play in changing this fact. Exercise can take many
maintenance and enhancement and, for frail elders, should forms, from organised classes and games to day-to-day tasks
include strengthening muscles, especially those in the legs and such as cleaning or helping with meals.
around the ankles which can help an older person’s balance. There are potential advantages to the fitness industry playing
People who have cognitive impairment and who are very old a role in providing exercise opportunities for residents in care
are a special case. To be safe, such programmes would need homes. However, if this is to happen, it’s essential that staff
to be performed with an exercise partner, which could be too receive training to understand the specific health and safety
expensive for a care home if a relative is unavailable. That said, a risks, and that specialised programmes for older people –
programme involving a relative would definitely be worthwhile.

especially those with dementia – are devised.

february 2010 © cybertrek 2010 Read Health Club Management online 29
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