We have heard this many times, in many different ways, from many different people. Exercise is good for us. I’m not here to say anything different. It is good for everyone. However what is important that exercise adds to our lives and does not negatively impact it. We don’t want injury, we don’t want to be made uncomfortable for some reason and we don’t want to be so exhausted that we cannot live our lives.
What is the right amount of exercise and the right kind of exercise will depend on lots of factors, including who you are, how old you are, what you general level of fitness, your attitude, your goals……
People with dementia may still want to exercise, that might mean a 5 mile escorted run (yes, I have had a client who had lots of energy and fitness and wanted to run sprints), but it might also mean a dog walk to a nearby café for a coffee and some cake.
There are lots of people who are far too intimidated to go to a gym, they don’t own active wear and think that they whole thing is stupid or at least for other people and you can still get tired gardening or hoovering, so why pay for gym membership. If that is their view, that is fine, they have a point and are entitled to feel however they feel. So for them, exercise is not going to be a spin class, but it might mean a round of golf or a walk in the park. Or maybe some ballroom dancing.
Dogs are great at getting us out of the house, because even if you are not in the mood, they still need walking, the daily regime is good for us as well as the dog.
Not everyone has the necessity of taking the dog out, but some kind of routine is really good, so maybe that is a class at the local village hall that takes place every Tuesday and Thursday, which then sets up the routine. It can also be a form of social interaction and inclusion for anyone who might struggle with other forms of exercise.
There are also forms of exercise that are designed for people who have limits on their mobility, which are often organised by local charities. Wheelchair or seated movement fantastic for those people who struggle to balance. Again, it is another opportunity of inclusion and for people to feel part of a community, which is also really good for health and wellbeing.
For some elite athletes, a days’ worth of exercise might mean 6 hours of targeted training with their coach in the gym or pool or wherever they need for their sport. For others it might be something that looks very different from that, including getting off at the bus stop before your actual bus stop to walk the last bit. Whatever your version of moving your body looks like, it is worthwhile doing it. It will make you feel better, as it produces endorphins that make your body feel better.
Our bodies are supposed to feel a bit of pressure from the exertion, not so that we are doing ourselves some harm or injury, but the right kind of stress builds our resilience and improves our health. Your own body can tell you when you have done enough and what is too much.
For people with dementia, exercise might need to be accompanied, supported or it might be solo, it all depends on what the person is choosing to do and where they are in their dementia journey.
No matter who you are or where you are, you have some kind of opportunity to move your body. You can do it in community, with others, such as meeting other dog walkers or going to a class or meeting a friend for a walk or alone, by doing housework or gardening or walking your dog in a more isolated spot. Everyone will have their idea of what kind of exercise is fun and what is their idea of hell, we are all different and allowed to have a different view of certain activities. The only thing that matters is that we move our body to the extent that we are able. That we experience that good feeling and good stress on the body of the movement, that our heart rate goes up.
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