It has been proven, over and over for many years now, that a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and adequate sleep can significantly decrease a person’s chances of developing dementia later in life. Recently, however, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that incorporating small daily doings that provide moderate physical activity outside of vigorous exercise can have a great cumulative effect on the brain in a similar way.
This is especially noteworthy for seniors with mobility issues and chronic pain or those who cannot seem to find the motivation to stick to an exercise regimen. The study followed 60,000+ people, all aged 65+ and not previously diagnosed with dementia nor yet exhibiting symptoms and compared levels of daily activity against an eventual diagnosis of dementia over the next ~4 years. According to the findings, while subjects who exercised sufficiently were by far the least likely to develop symptoms, those who exercised insufficiently but still followed a reasonably active lifestyle were significantly less likely to suffer from dementia than those who were completely sedentary.
Below are some ideas for simple, light, and easy-to-incorporate activities to add to your weekly routine to help keep your body and brain healthier:
Gardening: tending to a small garden, watering or mowing a lawn, or even caring for household plants can be a relaxing form of mild physical activity that builds a connection with the elements as well as a sense of purpose.
Continuing to be safely sexually active: while the importance of safe and protected sexual activity for seniors is not discussed nearly enough, it can be an excellent way to promote feelings of intimacy, release endorphins, and provide small bouts of physical activity.
Playing a musical instrument: some instruments like the cello, a recorder, or a violin can provide mild to moderate physical activity and help with overall brain activity and mental health.
Short walks: walking your dog, taking a walk while on the phone with a loved one to catch up, or taking a meditative solo-walk around the block a couple of times a day.
Playing golf: while not always accessible to all, a couple hours a week of golfing can greatly contribute to an active lifestyle and create a great environment for socializing and getting fresh air. Not a golfer? Try minigolf!
Swimming or taking a water aerobics class: while technically a form of exercise, it can be an excellent way for those with pain and mobility issues to take up an enjoyable physical activity that does not strain the joints or require particular strength.
It’s important to note that, while being physically active can help tremendously with preventing or delaying symptoms of dementia (as well as other diseases and complications specific to aging), it’s certainly not the only factor. The causes of dementia remain, largely, a mystery, and genetics play a huge role in determining the probability of diagnosis. Studies show that getting enough sleep, finding ways to keep the brain engaged socially, intellectually, and artistically, and eating a healthy diet are all important elements as well.
Senior Steps offers no-cost phone consultations for those interested in developing a plan for a healthier lifestyle for themselves or an older loved one. Call us today to discuss how we can help!