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Four Easy Ways to Exercise, Fight Alzheimer's, Dementia, and Brain Deterioration

Posted Jul 31 2009 10:49am

My name is Bob DeMarco, I am an Alzheimer's caregiver. My mother Dorothy, now 93 years old, suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

I am a big proponent of exercise and socialization. There are several research studies that indicate exercise, and a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia.

My own experience with my mother, and other Alzheimer's sufferers, shows me that exercise and socialization makes a big difference in quality of life.

Its not hard for me to jump to the conclusion that exercise and socialization keep the brain strong, and actually help improve the brain and its functioning.

Regardless of age, you should be giving this considerable thought. This would be especially true for the 30 percent of Americans that say they fear Alzheimer's (Harris Interactive Poll).

Here are a few easy ways to combine exercise and socialization in a way that might help you ward off Alzheimer's and dementia. These exercises will also help keep your brain sharp.
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  1. Play Bocce (Boccie).

    You can play Bocce anywhere. You don't need a court, you can play on the grass in your back yard.

    Better yet, if you can find a Bocce league join.

    Bocce provides moderate exercise and forces you to use your brain. You use your brain while deciding which shot to make, but more importantly, you use your brain to send signals throughout your body.

    On the surface, playing Bocce seems simple to the average observer and it is. However, there are lots of things happening. While playing boccie you use eyes, arms, legs, and feet all in combination with your brain.

    If you join a league you will be interacting with many people. If not, 4 people is more than enough to have a good game of Bocce.

    Here at the Pines of Delray in Delray Beach, the older people (called senior citizens in the old days) get about 30 people for an informal Bocce league.

    Only 4 persons are on the court playing at a time; while the others get to talk and interact. If you join an Bocce league you will find the participants have a great time interacting, laughing, and sometimes "joking" about a shot.

    I know an 80 year old woman that met a man while playing Bocce. They recently married. I guess you could say that was an additional benefit, or social interaction at its best.

  2. Join a Wii bowling league.

    Everyone that tries this game raves about it. It is very realistic.

    The "pro" bowlers say the game really mimics bowling in a real bowling alley. The good news is you do not have to throw a 12-16 pound ball. You use a controller in your hand to make the shot.

    Like Bocce, there is a lot going on between your brain and your body parts. You also get moderate exercise and plenty of socialization. Remember when you were in a real bowling league?

    I have seen people in wheelchairs and using walkers play Wii bowling--so no excuses.

    Since I wrote my first article on the Wii, Wii bowling leagues in senior centers and over 55 communities are springing up all over the country. Believe it or not, mini Wii bowling alleys are beginning to open all over the country also.

    For more on Wii and Caregiving go here.

  3. Walking.

    Walking is an excellent form of exercise. However, you can improve the experience and build in socialization by finding a walking partner. I know from personal experience when you have an exercise partner you go more often, and miss less often. You always have the partner to "prod" you on those days when you don't feel like doing it.

    I suggest you walk a minimum of 22 minutes. I learned the more you walk the easier it gets, and you get faster. After a few days of walking you will start to notice you are going longer distances in the same 22 minutes. This along with the social interaction should help keep you motivated.

    Once you get good at walking, mix in a light 30 second jog every 4 minutes. You'll lose weight.

  4. Silver Sneakers.

    If you are a senior citizen you can join the Silver Sneakers exercise program. Silver Sneaker holds group exercise classes. You can start at Level 1 if necessary, and work your way up to higher levels in the Silver Sneakers program. Classes normally run 45 minutes.

    Many health care companies now pay for gym membership. If your gym has the Silver Sneakers program, you are good to go once you have the gym membership.

    I am a big fan of Silver Sneakers. You get an excellent low impact workout, and plenty of socialization. The typical class has 30 people, so you are almost certain to make new friends.

    This year Curves was added to the seniors programs, so you can go there if you prefer. My sister just turned 65, and she was paying $40 a month at Curves. Now its free for her. There is not as much social interaction at Curves, and they don't have group exercise classes. But, you can get on a good exercise program, and that is half the battle.
Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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