Meet Sion Jair, an Inspiring Man Who Climbs ‘Mountains’ as a Form of Alzheimer’s Therapy

The Guardian first introduced Sion Jair last May, who at the time was 67. Each day, he navigates through the Lake District, climbing the Old Man of Coniston, a 2,634 foothill known for its steep ascent. He was first diagnosed with chronic anemia due to a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Since he did not respond well to the injectable treatment, he was given a mere three years. That was when he began trekking 10 miles daily, overcoming his debilitating fatigue. Unfortunately, not long after, Sion was diagnosed with dementia. His severe case of anemia had been masking his symptoms.

This is his incredible story.

Walking For Comfort, Health, and Charity

After Sion discovered his frightening fate, he became even more motivated. He was climbing one mountain after the other, never relying on technology. He did not use any form of GPS and on one occasion, he climbed 12 peaks in 22 hours for a total of 28 miles. This allowed him to raise funds for Mountain Rescue, the Alzheimer’s Society, and the Great North Air Ambulance.

After discovering the Old Man of Coniston, Sion walked this site every day — sometimes twice daily. Today, he has climbed this immense area around 5000 times and admits he knows every path within this familiar landscape. Living with Alzheimer’s, walking has acted as his therapy.

Sion firmly believes that vigorous exercise is highly beneficial for Alzheimer’s and his doctors agree. At the time of his diagnosis, he was told that there was nothing the doctors could do — his condition had progressed beyond the early stages. This daily climb has acted as a source of stability in his life, as it is something he can do.

Like Sion, if at any point you feel as though something is not quite right, it is imperative that you take action. Please familiarize yourself with the BrainTest® app. This scientifically validated app will help you detect possible early warning signs so that you can intervene as soon as possible.

Exercise Can Significantly Benefit Alzheimer’s Patients

While focusing on the benefits of exercise in relation to Alzheimer’s, the majority of available research has focused on prevention. However, researchers are now focusing on the benefits of physical activity among those who have already been diagnosed.

In a recent review, the researchers assessed data from 19 studies. This data was collected between 2002 and 2015 and 90 percent of these studies were randomized controlled trials, which are the most reliable. Just over half of the participants had been assigned to some sort of aerobic exercise program. The remaining participants received traditional care.

On average, active participants exercised 3.5 times a week. What they found, was that those who were physically active showcased a significant increase in cognitive function, compared to non-active controls. Not only did brain function improve in the active group, but the non-active individuals experienced a deterioration.

It was concluded that exercise can change brain chemistry, benefiting those with neurodegenerative conditions. These findings were reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Exercise for Prevention

Whether you strive to reduce your risk of heart disease or Alzheimer’s, the benefits of exercise are seemingly limitless. In a recent study conducted by researchers from McMaster University, it was found that interval training improved memory and reduced the risk of conditions such as dementia.

Observing three groups, these participants were monitored across six weeks. The first group participated in a rigid training program, including both physical and cognitive exercises. The second group only performed physical training, and the control group did not participate in either.

In comparison to the control group, both physically active groups displayed better memory. It was also found that exercise increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein specifically supports brain function, as well as brain cell growth. Physical activity also promotes brain health by reducing inflammation, stimulating blood flow, and reducing insulin resistance.

After all, John Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry from Harvard Medical School said it best, “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning.”

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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