As a middle-distance runner and Challenge Events Ambassador for Dementia UK, physical exercise plays a central part in Adelle Tracey’s life. Here she shares her top tips for leading a physically active lifestyle and how this may reduce your risk of getting dementia.
Research suggests up to one in three cases of dementia are preventable*. None of us can avoid getting older, which is a risk factor for dementia, but other risk factors include lack of exercise and poor physical health, and we can definitely take control of our physical and mental health routines.
My exercise of choice is of course, running! But anything goes, as long as we’re getting our heart rates up and breathing more deeply. Remember that exercise can take many different forms. It doesn’t have to involve long distance running or playing sports. Light stretching, guided meditation, or chair yoga are all good for our minds and our bodies.
A regular walk
For many, a regular brisk walk is a great and easy way to improve overall physical fitness. Next time you consider popping in the car for a five-minute trip, try walking instead. You’ll quickly see your step count increase!
Not only does walking have health benefits on an individual level, it can also mean you carve out time to spend with others. This is supported by Dementia UK’s recent survey, which found that more than two fifths (42%) of family members caring for someone with dementia say that going for a walk is their favourite activity to do together. My grandmother had vascular dementia and I always enjoyed the moments we shared together whilst walking at the RHS gardens at Wisley.
As well as ‘everyday’ activities, such as walking, gardening or cleaning, exercise such as swimming is especially great. It provides an all-over body workout to ultimately build endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Your mental wellbeing
Physical activity has the added benefit of supporting your mental wellbeing. By getting your body moving, you can improve your mood and self-esteem, which can be beneficial at any stage of your life.
It’s also important to look after yourself if you’re supporting someone with dementia. Dementia UK’s data shows that over half (55%) of family carers feel that their physical health has been negatively impacted as a result of caring for someone with dementia. It can be hard to prioritise yourself when supporting someone else but building in some fun activities, such as dancing or playing with your children, could help put a smile on your face, whilst keeping yourself fit.
The power of socialising
Another way to bring together physical and mental health is through socialising with others. Group activities like tennis and fitness classes are ideal for this, as talking to people in group situations can provide opportunities for social engagement, which supports a well-rounded healthy lifestyle.
As well as looking at your everyday activities and exercise regime, remember to take advantage of a free health check at your GP surgery. This gives you an opportunity to get your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels checked to make sure they’re well managed.
Being a family carer
It can be difficult supporting someone who is living with dementia. I definitely felt exercise was a great outlet for me and my family while supporting my grandmother. Time walking together helped us feel less stressed and running has always allowed me to switch off from my emotions.
More people need to understand that when you love someone with dementia, you’re living with it too. That’s why Dementia UK’s #ILiveWithDementia campaign is so important. As well as highlighting the impact of dementia on those supporting someone with the condition, the campaign also signposts more people to the charity’s life-changing support through its dementia specialist Admiral Nurses.
To find out more, visit dementiauk.org/ILiveWithDementia or search social media with the hashtag #ILiveWithDementia.