Physical Therapy Benefits for Alzheimer's Disease

Many studies have shown that exercise is beneficial for people with Alzheimer's disease. Along with cardiovascular fitness, increased endurance, and improved strength, people with Alzheimer’s disease get added benefits from exercising.

The benefits of regular exercise in people with Alzheimer's disease include maintenance of motor skills, decreased falls, and reduced rate of functional decline. Improved behavior, improved memory, and better communication skills are a few other benefits associated with routine exercise programs in Alzheimer's disease.

Flexibility, balance, and strength exercises have been studied in patients with Alzheimer's disease versus medical management or nonexercise community activities. Researchers have found that patients who were treated with exercise showed less depression than those in the control groups and showed marked improvements in physical functioning.

Physical therapy plays an important role in exercise for patients with Alzheimer's disease by tailoring routines to meet the individual needs of each patient.

1

Balance Exercises

a person on a wobble board.
Rollover/Getty Images

Often as we age, our balance skills deteriorate. For this reason, it is important to do exercises to improve and maintain balance throughout our lives. Balance exercises can be performed daily and in your own home.

You can start out with simple balance activities and increase the difficulty as your balance improves. Improving your balance takes practice. One simple exercise can be done and modified as your skill level improves. Read on to learn how to improve your balance starting today.

Beginner

  1. Stand up straight behind a tall chair or at a countertop.
  2. Lightly grasp the chair or countertop with your fingertips.
  3. Raise one leg a foot off the ground.
  4. Maintain your balance while standing on one leg.
  5. Hold for a count of 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.
  7. Perform five times on each leg.

Intermediate

  1. Stand up straight behind a tall chair or at a countertop for safety only.
  2. Without holding onto the chair or countertop raise one leg a foot off the ground.
  3. Maintain your balance while standing on one leg.
  4. Hold for a count of 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.
  6. Perform five times on each leg.

Advanced

  1. Stand up straight behind a tall chair or at a countertop for safety only.
  2. Close both eyes.
  3. Without holding onto the chair or countertop raise one leg a foot off the ground.
  4. Maintain your balance while standing on one leg.
  5. Hold for a count of 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat with ​the other leg.
  7. Perform five on each leg.

Your physical therapist can also show you which balance exercises may be best for you. 

2

Strengthening and Stretching Exercises

a senior man stretching

 Westend61/Getty Images

Maintaining optimum strength can help keep your muscles strong and keep your functional mobility at its optimum. Your physical therapist can help you determine other strengthening exercises that are right for you, whether it's core strengthening exercises, abdominal exercises, exercises for healthy knees, or morning stretches to strengthen your back or neck.

3

Endurance Exercises

older couple riding bicycles
Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Endurance exercises include any activities that increase your heart rate and respiratory rate. Choose from these fun activities to increase your endurance:

  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Gardening
  • Housework
  • Bowling
  • Biking
  • Tai Chi

Many physical therapist clinics offer group exercise classes. This has the added benefit of socialization during exercise, which can keep you motivated while getting in your exercise.

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Article Sources

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  2. Roitto HM, Kautiainen H, Öhman H, Savikko N, Strandberg TE, Raivio M, Laakkonen ML, Pitkälä KH. Relationship of neuropsychiatric symptoms with falls in Alzheimer's disease–does exercise modify the risk?. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2018 Dec;66(12):2377-81. doi:10.1111/jgs.15614

  3. Epperly T, Dunay MA, Boice JL. Alzheimer disease: Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies for cognitive and functional symptoms. American Family Physician. 2017 Jun 15;95(12).

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