In a recent video segment for the Us Against Alzheimer’s “What Matters Most” series, dementia advocate Tracey Lind described the common misconception that self-care can’t change the course of dementia, “so we might as well give up and give in.”
Along with her fellow panelists, Lind went on to discuss the doubts people often express about her decision to manage her dementia through a healthy lifestyle, exercise and self-care. Four years after being diagnosed with early-onset Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) a progressive form of early-onset dementia, Tracey is still considered to be in the early stages of the disease and she attributes this, at least in part, to frequent activities such as walking, bike riding, yoga, and swimming.
As we continue to fight for a cure to dementia, the benefits of physical exercise and self care are increasingly the focus of research and hope. No matter what stage of the disease someone is in, there are clear rewards to physical exercise and its bedfellow, stress management — things Tracey and her spouse Emily, author of our Mindful Caregiver column, are committed to prioritizing.
For starters, we know that physical exercise such as walking improves oxygen flow to the brain. It’s no coincidence that a brisk walk can help you feel both relaxed and energized at the same time. Studies show that the benefits of exercise do not decrease with age and include improvements in reaction time, decision making, and memory.
Exercise also releases endorphins and decreases the risk of depression, which is important for those who struggle with the isolation and loss of independence that often come with a dementia diagnosis.
Newer research from the National Institute of health also indicates that a single session of moderately intense walking increases production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — a protein that is extremely important to “brain health, neuron development and survival, synaptic plasticity, and cognitive function.” The dysregulation of BDNF is also linked with neurodegenerative disorders, such as dementia.
During the month of October, people around the country who have been diagnosed with dementia will participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s with their friends, family their care partners. Since the early days of this even (1989) the facilitators have tried to make it an all-inclusve, dementia-friendly affair with people of all ages and stages coming together for movement, awareness, and fundraising.
The event has gone virtual for 2020 which makes it even easier for families and those living with dementia to participate where and whenever is most convenient. Click here to learn more.