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Alzheimer’s: An issue for everyone

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Alzheimer's: An issue for everyone

When I started working at Jubilee Hall back in 2009 I was aware that it was not a typical commercial gym, where the focus can be constantly on selling membership and related services to clients.

During my early journey as a personal trainer I also met and trained a lot of people, and I can now look back and see how that period changed my perception of my work fundamentally and in a good way.

For example, I learned early on that if you want to be successful as a personal trainer you need to have an natural interest in people, and by which I mean all kinds of people and not just the young.

In that spirit I would like to use the blog this week to underline how important an understanding of Alzheimer's disease is to our long-term health and vitality, even if we are in our younger years.

Here are some statistic so as to understand the impact of the disease on our society:

  • By 2015 there will be 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.

  • There are today 40,000 younger people already living with dementia in the UK.

  • There are 25,000 people living with dementia from black and minority ethnic groups in the UK.

  • There will be 1 million people with dementia in the UK by 2025.

  • Two thirds of people living with dementia are women.

  • The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every five-year age group.

  • One in six people aged 80 and over have dementia.

  • 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia.

  • Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would reduce deaths directly attributable to the condition by 30,000 a year.

  • The financial cost of dementia to the UK is £26 billion per year.

  • There are 670,000 carers of people with dementia in the UK.

  • Family carers of people with dementia save the UK £11 billion a year.

  • 80 per cent of people living in care homes have a form of dementia or severe memory problems.

  • Two thirds of people with dementia live in the community, while one third live in a care home.

  • Only 44% of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland actually receive a diagnosis of their condition.

But how does this relate to fitness and living a healthy lifestyle?

Well, to begin with it is important to understand how the connections between movement and thinking are intricate, additive and multi-directional.

Without a brain you can't move, it’s actually that simple. But without frequent movement you also have a less healthy or hardy brain.

According to medical research, regular workouts prompt the creation of new neurones, as well as new blood vessels and connections between existing neurones. Epidemiological studies also show that long-term runners have a lower risk of neurological disease, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

When it comes to working out, the idea is to challenge your brain, which in turn makes it more robust and healthy.

But how to do that?

In broad principle, to achieve this the idea is to keep your workout going at a healthy pace and to not take too long breaks when doing so. Also, privilege combinations of exercises when working out (opposite muscle exercises such as chest plus back, triceps plus biceps are great combinations, for example) to maintain momentum and cognitive engagement.

Another way to challenge your brain when working out is to play around with the type of exercises you do. You can target a specific weight exercise, for exams,e, but it would also be wise to mix your routine up with a coordination exercise, such as jumping squat when doing so.

In addition, include, snappy cardiovascular exercises in your routine (running, rowing, biking etc.) then get back to weight exercises when these routines are done.

We are not talking about a cure for dementia here, obviously. What we are talking about instead is more about living your life well and without routine. To do so take care of your brain, challenge it and optimise your thinking whenever you can. In the gym increasing the weight on the bar won’t do the trick (you can actually end up adding more pressure on yours joints as a result!) but training smartly will.

In this vein, a perfect outdoor or indoor exercise to bring into your routine to achieve this would be tennis. Combining cardiovascular, technical gestural movements, the motion of the body around the ball, being aware of where the opponent’s position is and of course taking in a consideration of the net itself, tennis a perfect physical/mental exercise, and means it a great activity for people of all ages.

On a related note, I would like to recommend a movie based on a true story concerning Alzheimer's, called Still Alice. This film will tell you everything you need to know about the human condition and its impact.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, you can at least mentally focus yourself to fight the condition, drawing on the support available to you to do so. But if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's you are denied similar support opportunities simply because you may be unaware that you are suffering from the disease in the first place as it gradually steals away your identity.

Alzheimer's is not only a concern for people for older people. It can and should concern everybody.

To resist its nullifying embrace my advice would be to exercise, read, make decisions (both wrong and right!) about your life and lead an active and fulfilling existence.

I am 35-years-old and I exercise for peace on mind as much as for my physical pride.

I would advise everyone to do the same.


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