Spring is finally here! Those of us who live in colder climates have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring. Although it snowed here is Ohio just a few days ago, it looks like we will be seeing green grass and a few buds on the trees for Easter. In fact, my daffodils are beginning to show their heads. This is a wonderful time to get outside with a loved one who has dementia and enjoy the sights and sounds that spring has to offer. Many of us are more sedentary in the winter and welcome the opportunity to stretch our stiff muscles. Now is the perfect opportunity to being a daily walking program. With your doctor’s permission of course, begin by walking 10-15 minutes a day for the first week and gradually increase that to 30 minutes each day.
Exercise helps the body release hormones that make us feel great and aid in providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. We know that physical exercise is crucial for maintaining good blood flow to the brain, reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, but it also helps protect against the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
What some of the recent research says:
• Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain- making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
• According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.
• A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas found that engaging in a physical exercise program helps healthy aging adults improve their memory, brain health and physical fitness.
• A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine Regular found that aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the hippocampus, which is involved in verbal memory and learning.
Besides keeping our body healthy, walking outside is a great mental stress reliever. You can use the time to relax, clear your head, and enjoy what nature has to offer. Walking can be a great social activity too. Ask friends, neighbors, or other families who are living with dementia to form a walking group with you. Begin by meeting at the same place and time once a week to enjoy each other’s support and camaraderie. Often when people come together to exercise, they are more motivated to stick with it because they know other people are counting on them and they enjoy the social aspect of the event. So get outside, enjoy spring, and get walking-your body and brain will love you for it!
© 2014 Jennifer Brush, do not reprint or distribute without permission.