Exercise does the body good. Turns out it can also be good for the brain.
There are many different risk factors that are linked to Alzheimer’s, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Having a regular exercise routine and a health diet can help with all of these and lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
Gregory Culbertson has been seeing firsthand how exercise can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Culbertson, who used to be in the piano business, got involved through a friend in helping seniors exercise. For the past two years, Culbertson has been taking seniors to McLeod Health and Fitness to work out. He is working now with six seniors, ranging in age from their early sixties to the oldest at 86. They are all in various stages of the disease.
His foray into working with seniors began with a request from his father.
“An old family friend who was living at Methodist Manor needed some help and my dad said that he would send me over,” Culbertson. “Well, then his family asked what I thought about taking him to McLeod to work out, so we started doing that. It is not a cure but it helps to prolong the effects of the disease. It builds neurons in your brain.”
The UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders has done extensive testing in the area of Alzheimer’s. It has found that physical exercise helps boosts the creation of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor, something that is found to be in decline in patients with Alzheimer’s.
At the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto, Canada, three studies reported a variety of positive results from incorporating exercise as a method of care for Alzheimer’s patients. One study showed a decrease in some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s including depression and irritability. Another study showed physical improvement, including increased blood flow to the brain, specifically in areas that deal with processing thoughts and recalling memories.
Culbertson said that he has heard positive things from his seniors’ doctors as well.
“These families aren’t seeing anyone get worse,” Culbertson said. “When they go to their doctors for their check-ups, they are the same. From what I have found, it is the only thing that has proven to be any help to Alzheimer’s, that and having social activity. It won’t cure it and is not meant to replace doctors and their care plans. It is just meant to help along with all of that. It is about improving the quality of life.”
Culbertson knows that it can be tough for patients and their families when navigating an Alzheimer’s diagnosis: His grandmother had the disease.
He knows that even just getting people out and about can help improve their moods.
“Socializing is a big thing,” Culbertson said. “When I bring Pete Johnson here you will never see him smile other than when we are in the swimming pool. He loves the pool because he gets to talk with people and has a good time.”
Johnson’s family does not live in Florence, so Culbertson does more than go to the gym with him.
“We go to the Florence Rotary Club meetings together,” Culbertson said. “He is still a member of the Florence County Club so we’ll go there for lunch and he loves to go to the Florence Symphony and the Florence Little Theatre.”
Even though Johnson sometimes gets frustrated, with Culbertson or just in general when he can’t remember something, Culbertson continues what he is doing because he feels like he is making a difference.
“You won’t see any emotion from him but he calls me at 6 o’clock in the morning and asks if we are going to the gym,” Culbertson said. “His son came to visit and they went to the beach and after a day or two, Pete was saying he needed to go home; he needed to go exercise.”
Culbertson said that he would like to see exercise classes available specifically for people with Alzheimer’s for both the physical and the social aspects that it offers.
This article has kindly been shared with us by SC Now.