Dear Dr. Gross,
My husband is not in great shape and I worry about the effect on his health. His mother has Alzheimer’s disease and his sister seems to be in the early stages of cognitive decline. Are there compelling reasons why it might be a good idea for him to start exercising?
Simply put, we do not yet know definitively that exercise will prevent a future risk of dementia. On the other hand, if your husband is open to it and healthy, there is generally more good than harm that can come from physical activity. If you are at all concerned about the effect that physical activity might have on your husband, I would encourage him to consult his physician before starting an exercise program. At this point, staying active physically, socially and cognitively are all recommended for older adults to the extent it is comfortable and safe for them to do so.