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Physical exercise for Dementia sufferer


New member
Jul 12, 2019
My wife has severe young onset dementia and is now in a nursing home. Sadly her mobility has deteriorated but I still manage to get her onto her feet to try and walk her with support. In this way her lower limbs can get some exercise. My question is, how do I exercise the upper part of her body. Has anyone got any tips that I may use on a daily basis?


Registered User
Sep 9, 2018
Mid Lincs
I used a balloon to bat back and forward to ease my oh stiffness in his arms and shoulders. He got fed up with exercise but will bat the balloon for ages.

Toony Oony

Registered User
Jun 21, 2016
Hi - and welcome.

This is from the Alzheimer Europe website and similar to some of the exercises they do in Mum's CH. Obviously not all will be appropriate for you - but hopefully some may be of use.

10 exercises for people with dementia and their carers
The instructions should be given slowly, clearly and calmly. The carer and the person with dementia should sit facing each other in a well aired room and do the exercises together. It is advisable to start with 3-4 exercises repeating them 10 times. Slowly the programme can be broadened. The exercises should not last longer than 20 minutes. If the person enjoys them, they can be repeated twice a day, with different sets of exercises. The person should be encouraged patiently. Music can also be added to make the exercises more enjoyable. The first results can be expected after 3 weeks; both in carers and people with dementia.

  1. Spread your arms : breathe in; Arms down : breathe out.
  2. Left shoulder up : breathe in; Shoulder down : breathe out Do the same with your right shoulder Both shoulders up : breathe in; Down : Breathe out.
  3. Tilt your head back : breathe in; Tilt it forward : breathe out. Turn your head to the left : breathe in; Turn it to the right : breathe out.
  4. Bend your upper body to the sides : breathe in - breathe out; Bend it to the front : breathe in - breathe out; Turn your upper body to the left and right : breathe in - breathe out.
  5. Sitting march: Lift your right knee up : breathe in; Put your foot down: breathe out; Lift your knee up: breathe in; Down: breathe out.
  6. Stretch your legs out: Left leg: breathe in - breathe out; Right leg: breathe in - breathe out: Both legs: breathe in - breathe out.
  7. Exercise your feet: Cross your legs; Rotate your foot : to the left - to the right.
  8. Exercise your hands: Rubbing, massaging, pressing, bending your fingers; Rotate your wrists.
  9. Take a deep breath in : then a long and slow breath out. Take a deep breath in : then a quick and forceful breath out.
  10. Stand on your tip-toes : breathe in; Bend your knees until you are squatting : breathe out.
Devised and written by Dr. Hanna Jedrkiewicz


Registered User
Jul 12, 2019
Hi, There are lots of armchair exercises that you and your wife can do and there's also some excellent yoga exercises that can be done safely from armchairs. In one care home I visited recently they have an elderly yoga instructor who visits the residents daily and it's an optional activity which most of them participate in and really enjoy. If you google "armchair yoga", "armchair exercises" etc. it should give you some video examples. Hope that helps.


Volunteer Moderator
May 9, 2012
south-east London
The suggestion of using a balloon is a good idea.

With my husband I used a soft medium sized ball with general questions on it (available from the Alzheimer's Society shop). It helped start up conversations, got us laughing and reminiscing - as well as helping him exercise by gently throwing and catching.

Just by chance, there was one time when he picked up a stretchy resistance band belonging to our daughter. She used it to tone up her legs but my husband liked to stretch it with his hands /arms. I believe you can get them with different levels of resistance.

He also liked to shake a tambourine or maracas to the beat of the different kinds of music we listened to.

If there was football on tv I would give him his football scarf and often he would hold it above his head and sway his arms in support of his team.

He was actually fairly mobile until late on into his illness, but on days when he struggled and preferred to sit, we used to have fun with an exercise based on the children's song 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes '. We did the routine sitting in a chair and mainly he would copy me. It didn't matter if he got it wrong at times, the main thing was that he was moving and enjoying it.

Edit:Just to add that I just remembered that on the secure dementia ward my husband attended during his final months, the staff often brought out a lovely colourful beach ball for the patients to pass or throw around. My husband didn't involve himself in that - but it was very popular with others.