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Physical Exercise for Dementia Patients

Aged Care

Updated 25-01-2024

Physical Exercise for Dementia Patients

Physical exercise is increasingly recognised as a pillar in the management and care of dementia patients. Australian healthcare professionals advocate the integration of routine physical activity to enhance cognitive function, manage behavioural symptoms, and improve the quality of life. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the multifaceted benefits of exercise for individuals living with dementia, potential exercise interventions, and strategies for safe and effective implementation.

The Cognitive Connection: Exercise and Brain Health

Research has repeatedly underscored the link between physical activity and cognitive health. Regular exercise boasts the ability to increase neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections. For dementia patients, this means potential delays in the progression of cognitive decline. Aerobic exercises such as walking or swimming are particularly beneficial as they increase heart rate, subsequently improving blood flow and oxygen to the brain; an essential element for nourishing neural tissues and supporting cognitive functions.

Resistance Training: Beyond Muscle Strength

Resistance or strength training plays a crucial role in physical exercise regimens for dementia patients. Not only does it bolster muscle strength and endurance, but it also contributes to neural health. By engaging in resistance exercises like weight lifting or resistance band workouts, dementia patients can also experience enhancements in executive functions, such as decision-making, problem-solving, and attention regulation.

Managing Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms

Physical exercise is an effective non-pharmacological intervention to mitigate some of the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). Symptoms such as agitation, depression, and anxiety can be alleviated through regular, structured physical activities. The release of endorphins, often referred to as 'feel-good hormones', during exercise, creates a natural boost in mood, which is particularly beneficial for those grappling with emotional upheavals that come with dementia.

Tailoring Exercise to Individual Needs

Every dementia patient has a unique set of abilities and limitations. Customising exercise programs to cater to the individual's current physical capacities, preferences, and cognitive status is fundamental. A combination of cardiovascular exercises, strength training, balance, and flexibility activities covers a broad spectrum of therapeutic benefits. Engaging activities like dancing and group exercises can also provide a social element, aiding in emotional support and a sense of community among participants.

Safety First: Exercise Precautions

When implementing an exercise program for dementia patients, safety is paramount. Caregivers and exercise professionals must ensure that the physical environment is secure, free of obstacles, and that supervision is provided as needed. It is also essential to consider the patients' hydration needs, appropriate clothing, and footwear to prevent falls. Moreover, starting with lower intensity and gradually increasing, as well as allowing for ample rest between sessions, is critical in avoiding overexertion.

Consistency and Routine: The Pillars of Effective Exercise

Creating a consistent routine is indispensable for dementia patients. This helps in establishing a sense of predictability and comfort. Regular time slots for exercise, along with visual aids and reminders, can assist in integrating physical activity into daily life seamlessly. Furthermore, it’s vital that the benefits of the physical exercise align with the individual’s circadian rhythm, complementing their most alert and energised times of the day.


For dementia patients, physical exercise serves as a key avenue to not only maintain and potentially improve cognitive function, but also enhance overall well-being. To achieve the best outcomes, it's imperative that exercise initiatives are tailored, secure, and consistent, with a focus on the enjoyable and empowering aspects of physical activity. With the right approach, physical exercise can be a powerful component in the comprehensive care for individuals with dementia, providing a brighter, more engaged aspect to their daily living.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.

Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow care workers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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