Physical exercise plays a significant role in defense against Alzheimer’s disease, according to an article from Biomedical Reports. Aging is a cognitive impairment risk factor, but aerobic and other physical exercise and activities decrease risks that often accompany diseases affecting the brain. Those factors include: obesity, hypertension leading to stroke, and diabetes.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but physical activity is beneficial to people with dementia or who are at risk of the neurological disorder. Physical activity addresses obesity, which is tied to both diabetes and hypertension.
Why seniors don’t exercise
The average age that patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is greater than 65. Unfortunately, this is also the segment of the population that fails to exercise regularly.
By age 75, 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women do not engage in any form of physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A better way
Melissa Cianfrini, owner of Feel Better Fitness, has insight into why seniors don’t exercise. As a certified fitness instructor, Cianfrini saw a lack of standard personalized training and group fitness instruction for seniors with joint health conditions and other specialized needs, like Alzheimer’s disease.
Seniors may recognize the necessity of physical exercise, but are hindered by issues that younger people don’t experience in a standard exercise class. The lack of personalized connection for caregivers and seniors who are often isolated is a hindrance.
Seniors with cognitive disorders have a different set of problems, as well as seniors with joint disease. Getting up and down from the floor is painful and even impossible for a senior with degenerative joints. Also, understanding the directions by the fitness instructor is problematic for a person who is affected cognitively. His or her reaction can affect the entire class, and could embarrass both the caregiver and their loved one.
Cianfrini wrote to me over Facebook Messenger: “Many of the people in my class feel and experience various levels of anxiety, depression, fear that they will be unable to participate or succeed because of cognitive issues from their disease, whether it’s Alzheimer’s or another neurological disorder. Caregivers have a difficult time getting them to class, but after class they are both happier and their mood is lighter”
Changing how seniors exercise
Creating an atmosphere for seniors that is safe, welcoming, and effective has been a successful venture for Cianfrini.
“I modified exercises [to] focus on their concerns, to build core balance, and to correct posture. I wanted to present a well-rounded exercise, and to personalize their experience,” she said.
Cianfrini claims that teaching seniors is more than a job; it’s a mission to help her students increase mobility and become stronger. She continually encourages them that it’s not too late, offering to hold core/posture balance seminars for free and to start them on an exercise regimen.
“I always had a heart for the senior community … and find it most rewarding to make a difference in their quality of life,” Cianfrini said.
The average age of students in Cianfrini’s Feel Better Fitness class is between 50 and 70. There’s even a 90-year-old client who began exercising in her late 80s.
“She was having a hard time getting out of the chair, car, etc. Now, she has no problem doing those things. Strengthening her legs [through exercise] and core corrected her posture,” Cianfrini said.
Cianfrini also teaches a Parkinson’s Neurological Alzheimer’s class. Twice a week caregivers and spouses take the class for free and join their loved ones for exercises that strengthen posture, lessen pain, and assist with mobility. The caregivers are present to assist their loved ones, but their class experience extends beyond that.
“They are happy to be in class for social time. Caregivers, too, have time [for] fellowship with people who understand. I encourage them and give them a positive experience,” she said.
Driven by her own caregiving history, Cianfrini encourages the caregivers who join her class and assist their loved ones.
“I’ve been through this with my dad and can empathize and also encourage them that they are doing a great job with their loved one,” she said.
Staying fit during a pandemic
The coronavirus has affected Cianfrini’s business, though her faithful following continues to exercise via her Feel Better Fitness YouTube videos. Cianfrini will launch a three-month program in August called 12 Steps to Progress to help students continue improving while they’re prohibited from coming to class.
“It’s so important to get them exercising through this pandemic. That’s why I started the YouTube channel, so they can get me in their home and stay connected to get their exercises,” she said.
Cianfrini teaches fitness classes in South Florida, but you may benefit from her YouTube videos. You might also find a similar fitness program to Feel Better Fitness.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.
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