Exercise and physical activity

5. Exercise in the later stages of dementia

Physical activity can also be beneficial in the later stages of dementia, if it is possible. Staying mobile may reduce the need for constant supervision from a caregiver. It may also minimise the need for certain adaptations, such as walk-in bathtubs or stair-lifts. Exercises can range from changing position from sitting to standing, walking a short distance into another room, to moving to sit in a different chair at each mealtime throughout the day.

What is the right amount of activity in the later stages of dementia?

There is no definitive answer to this question and the ideal amount of exercise will vary from person to person. People in the later stages of dementia should be encouraged to move about regularly and change chairs, for example when having a drink or a meal. There should be opportunities to sit unsupported (as far as possible) with supervision on a daily basis. A daily routine involving moving around the home can help to maintain muscle strength and joint flexibility.

Suggested exercises in the later stages of dementia

  • When getting up or going to bed, shuffle along the edge of the bed, in the sitting position, from one end of the bed to the other. This helps exercise the muscles needed for standing up from a chair.
  • Balance in a standing position. This can be done holding on to a support if necessary. This exercise helps with balance and posture and can form part of everyday activities, for example when showering or doing the washing up.
  • Sit unsupported for a few minutes each day. This exercise helps to strengthen the stomach and back muscles used to support posture. This activity should always be carried out with someone else present as there is a risk of falling.
  • Lie as flat as possible on the bed for 20-30 minutes each day, trying to reduce the gap between the curve of the back and the mattress. This allows for a good stretch, strengthens abdominal muscles and gives the neck muscles a chance to relax.
  • Stand up and move about regularly. Moving regularly helps to keep leg muscles strong and maintain good balance.