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Alzheimer's Caregivers: Try a Walk to Help Reduce Stress and Benefit Your Mind, Body and Spirit

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Caregivers and care partners of those with Alzheimer's disease or a related form of dementia can experience great satisfaction and fulfillment in caring for their loved one. However, they often don't have enough time to take care of themselves, which can lead to stress and can cause issues with their own health and well-being. Caregivers need to find ways to decrease their stress levels in order to remain physically healthy and maintain their emotional welfare. Getting outdoors and taking a walk every day can be a great way to reduce stress. Now that spring is here and the weather is warming, consider the following reasons for making walking one of your regular daily routines.

Walking is good for the mind

Current studies indicate that walking can actually help to prevent age-related cognitive decline. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco compared the brain function of nearly 6,000 women over an eight-year period in a study that found that those women who walked regularly were less likely to have age-related mental decline. Another study found that physical exercise may even help to prevent Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Those who exercised vigorously at least three times per week significantly cut their risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to inactive individuals, who were twice as likely to develop the disease. In yet another interesting study that scanned gray matter in the brain, participants who developed mild cognitive decline or dementia over a 13-year period had greater gray matter volume in their brains if they walked six to nine miles per week compared to those who walked less or not at all.

Walking is good for the body

Walking is also great for the heart, improves circulation and energy, and helps to strengthen muscles and bones. Stronger muscles burn more calories which can also help with maintaining a good weight. Endurance exercises like walking help keep the heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy and also help to manage diabetes.

Walking is good for the spirit

If the mental and physical benefits aren't enough to convince you, think of experiencing nature, smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, and getting your daily dose of sunlight and vitamin D. Walking improves mood, awakens the senses, gives you a break from work and worry and renews the spirit. Getting outdoors in the natural sunlight also helps to reset your biological clock and circadian rhythm, which helps with getting a better night's sleep. Walking also provides an opportunity to connect with neighbors and others to maintain social connections that are vital to leading long, healthy lives.

You might need to ask a friend, family member or neighbor to stay with your loved one while you walk. Or, if your loved one is able to walk with you, include him or her because they will also benefit from being outdoors, experiencing nature, connecting with neighbors and might even have improved sleep patterns. We all experience cabin fever from time to time, so put on those walking shoes and get out into the fresh air. Walking is a great way to refresh the mind, reinvigorate the body and nurture the spirit.

For more by Rita Altman, R.N., click here.

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