Written by Active Minds on Monday the 27th of June 2016.
Sport can have a positive impact on people living with dementia and staying active, involved and engaged can help to improve overall quality of life. Keeping active has long-term health benefits, as well as a range of other advantages and physical activity can be an important part of helping to manage dementia. The type of sport and exercise must be suitable for someone’s needs and appropriate for the stage of dementia that they are living with. Sporting activity does not have to be overwhelming, it can be something as simple as taking a short walk or doing seated exercises; engaging in physical activity that is ‘little but often’ can still have a big effect.
Sport can be a highly social activity. Getting together with others and playing sport or exercising together is a great way to reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation and prevent people living with dementia from withdrawing from their immediate community. Sport allows people to express themselves and explore their feelings in a fun environment. Interacting with others and being part of a team can help people to better understand each other and feel supported.
Reminiscence therapy is a great way to prompt conversation between people living with dementia and artefacts, music and photos are all prompts that can be used to stimulate memories and encourage people to express themselves. Not every method will work for everyone and it is important to find what works for specific people. Sport is something that can be used to help people reminisce.
Older men can struggle to use some prompts to access memories and it can be more difficult to encourage men to explore their feelings. Organisations such as Sporting Memories Network use the power of sport to forge connections. Memories of sporting events and favourite teams can work in the same way as photos. Traditionally harder to reach groups, such as older men, can bond over their sporting stories and recreate the banter and camaraderie of getting together to watch sport or a social club environment. The conversation, laughter and nostalgia can help to start valuable conversations.
Dementia can affect a person’s self-worth and confidence. Playing sport, team games or doing some exercise can make a big difference to someone living with dementia’s feelings about their self. It is possible to feel frustrated about new limitations and outlets someone once had that made them feel confident can be restricted. Sport allows someone to find new ways to feel a sense of achievement after they have completed a task. By doing sport with others, people living with dementia can gain encouragement from each other and feel confident in a supported environment.
One of the most straight-forward advantages of doing sport and exercise is the physical benefits that it brings. Keeping active is an important way to maintain a healthy standard of living and improve mental and physical wellbeing. It can keep joints flexible and muscles strong to help with strength and balance, as well as improving cardiovascular fitness and preventing the risk of type 2 diabetes. If someone has sleeping problems then exercise can also help them to expend more energy throughout the day and get to sleep more easily. Doing physical activity outside can also allow someone to feel connected to nature and their community. Indoor bowls, dancing and walking are all great ways to keep fit. Exercise can be difficult during the later stages of dementia. Products like the Spa Balls Multi Pack are designed for this later period and work through gentle resistance and simple games to improve dexterity, co-ordination and mobility.