Care Partner Information Sheet

Dementia - Exercise

Why is Exercise Important?

Exercise keeps our bodies in shape. It keeps our muscles, joints, and everything inside of us working better. It also helps us lose weight, sleep better, and it can improve our mood.

Exercise is important for someone with dementia.  It not only helps them feel better, it also helps them to do more things for themselves, for as long as possible. It helps give them strength, balance, and good flexibility. Some research says that exercising every day might help people with mild dementia keep their memory and thinking skills longer.

Staying Safe with Exercise

You should make sure someone with dementia is safe while exercising. If possible, they should exercise with someone else. This is very important if they take medicine that might make them dizzy or if they get tired easily.  If they do exercise alone, have them wear an ID bracelet  with your phone number. Comfortable clothes and shoes that fit well are also important.

Several 10-minute workouts may be best, instead of one long one. Drinking plenty of water is important. Drink before and after exercise.

Tips for Helping Someone with Dementia Stay Active
  • Take a walk together
  • Turn on some music and dance
  • Use a stationary bicycle
  • Join an exercise program that is designed for older adults with dementia
  • Build a garden
  • Throw a rubber ball back and forth
  • Use stretching bands
  • Use soup cans as weights
  • Clean the house together
  • Grocery shop together

Here are some exercises to try at home. Start with one set and build up from there.

Toe Stands

  • Hold the backrest of a sturdy chair and stand hip width apart.
  • Lift your heels as much as possible then bring them back to floor. Repeat this movement 10 times for one set. 
  • Rock back on your heels and lift your toes to stretch between sets.

Chair Sit-to-Stand to Sit

  • Sit on a sturdy chair and cross your arms on the chest.
  • Rise from the chair to a fully up right position and then slowly return to a sitting position.
  • Repeat this movement 10 times for one set.
  • If needed, use an armrest to make this exercise easier.

Stair Steps

  • Hold the handrail of a staircase for safety. Step up on a step one foot at a time.
  • Step down one foot at a time.
  • Repeat 10 times alternating the leading foot. Rest and repeat another 10 times for one set.

Useful Websites

National Institute on Aging
Caregiver Guide  

Written by: Jane Mohler, NP-c, MPH, PhD, and Lisa O'Neill, DBH, MPH, University of Arizona Center on Aging