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Recommended Exercises for Early to Middle-Stage Dementia

bowling skittlesExercise benefits everyone. With the Lehigh Valley still under health safety restrictions, there are limits to the places one can go and join others for entertainment and exercise. That does not, however, mean we must remain stagnant. Unfortunately, many people picture persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias as immobile, unresponsive bodies. This affliction does not keep them from enjoying certain pleasures and benefitting from appropriate forms of exercise and activities. South Mountain Memory Care in Emmaus is proud to offer a wide range of resident-focused daily activity programming to our residents. Each neighborhood offers activity space for group and one-on-one activities. Here are some other suggestions for guided activities.


Gardening is a physical activity that provides an opportunity to get outdoors and is a low-skill activity whose level can be varied to suit someone’s abilities. It could be something that requires less exertion like weeding or pruning, or a more strenuous activity like raking or mowing grass. These activities may help strengthen the body’s muscles and improve breathing.

Indoor bowling is good for people who may retain their bowling skills or continue to participate in other ball games, and so may enjoy indoor carpet bowls or skittles. Some local leisure centers offer indoor bowling sessions, or sets can be purchased from toy or sports stores.

Dancing can range from tea dances and couple or group sessions to more improvised movements involving ribbons, balloons, or balls. Dancing can also be done in a seated position. This is a very social activity and an enjoyable way to participate in exercise. It can increase strength and flexibility, help with staying steady and agile, and reduce stress.

Seated exercises can benefit a patient using a regular program of seated exercise sessions at home or with a group at a local class. It is often a good idea to see these exercises demonstrated at least once by an instructor or on a video. These exercises are aimed at building or maintaining muscle strength and balance, and are less strenuous than exercises in a standing position. Some examples of seated exercises include:

  • marching
  • turning the upper body from side to side
  • raising the heels and toes
  • raising the arms towards the ceiling
  • raising the opposite arm and leg
  • bending the legs
  • clapping under the legs
  • bicycling the legs
  • making circles with the arms
  • practicing moving from sitting to standing

Swimming under supervision is a good activity for people with dementia. Many people find the sensation of being in the water soothing and calming. Some studies have also shown that swimming may improve balance and reduce the risk of falls in older people.

Tai chi and qigong are gentle forms of Chinese martial arts that combine simple physical movements and meditation, with the aim of improving balance and health. These forms of exercise focus on balance and stability.

Walking suits all abilities. It is free, does not need special equipment, and can be done anywhere. The distance and time spent walking can be varied to suit fitness levels.

South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. South Mountain Memory Care is proud to offer a wide range of resident-focused daily activity programming to our residents. Each neighborhood offers activity space for group and one-on-one activities.

The brand-new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs, are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to

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