Much has been written about the physical and emotional benefits associated with walking. For individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, research indicates that a regimen of taking short walks may help slow memory loss, as well as improve physical endurance.
A 2017 study, conducted by University of Kansas, found that aerobic exercise, achieved through a walking program, was associated with gains in cardiorespiratory fitness and improved memory performance. This is potentially good news for family members of those impaired by Alzheimer’s disease, who are seeking to maintain their loved ones’ physical and mental health for as long as possible.
Other studies have also detected a relationship between regular exercise and memory function. And, those who are more physically active have been found to have greater volume in the hippocampus region of the brain. The hippocampus is linked to memory function.
There are lots of reasons to add a short walk into the daily regimen for you and your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Here are a few of them:
- Improves oxygen intake and blood flow. Fresh air helps pump more oxygen to the brain. Oxygen is the fortification needed for brain cells to function properly. Increased blood flow also means better circulation, which helps joints, muscles and tissues perform better.
- Provides a low impact method of exercising muscles. Walking allows individuals to proceed at their own pace, without putting a concentrated stress on joints and muscles. The process of walking is therapeutic without being overly taxing on physical strength. It is, of course, important to take regular breaks!
- Stimulates the senses. The variety of sights, sounds and smells we encounter on a walk can be energizing. They can they make us more alert and aware, which can be especially therapeutic to those challenged by dementia.
Another great benefit of taking a short walk together is that it gives you time to enjoy each other’s company without making a concerted effort to come up with something to say. Taking an easy stride, with an occasional comment on the scenery can have a calming effect on both of you. It gives you time away from the house to enjoy the breezes and sun on your shoulders; a simple pleasure with many benefits.
Alzheimer’s disease impacts over 5 million people in the United States alone. And it’s a number that is expected to almost double over the next 20 years. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you need every tool available to you to help maintain their physical and emotional health for as long as possible. Walking, for those who are able, is one of the best methods of increasing blood flow to the brain, as well as keeping joints and muscles in working order.
Have a look outside. What’s the weather like? Is it warming up? Late spring is a great time to get out and take a walk with your loved one. But be sure to start off slowly. Don’t rush. And, as the saying goes, take time to stop and smell the roses!