Program stimulates body, brain

Minds in Motion sessions give people with Alzheimer's disease a chance to connect and exercise.

Tina Biello

Tina Biello

Sitting down for a game of Scrabble after participating in a fitness routine is just the right mix of heart-pumping movement and mental exercise to make a difference in the life of a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

A Minds in Motion program, offered through parks, recreation and culture, combines exercise and social activities such as board games and friendly conversation over a cup of tea or coffee to help people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – or a related dementia – to live healthier lives.

The program is designed for a person who suffers from the disease and their caregiver, family member or friend. The participants must accompany each other to every class.

Tina Biello, First Link coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia, oversees the social component of the program, which lasts about an hour.

The program offers people a place to come together and meet others going through a similar situation and is making a positive impact on participants, said Biello.

“It’s an opportunity for them to see they are not alone and to meet other people going through a journey they are embarking on,” she said. “They keep coming back and look forward to coming.”

The exercise component ensures people are keeping active. The fitness routine consists of 45 minutes of exercises using light weights and resistance bands.

Shelley Howlett, a fitness instructor for the city, oversees the exercise portion of the program.

She said it is an important factor in helping people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, as the exercise and brain activity helps slow the onset of the disease.

Minds in Motion started in Nanaimo in September. The program was expanded to other parts of the province after a successful two-year pilot project in Victoria.

The program runs in seven-week sessions and operates year-round. People can join the sessions at any time as long as space is available. The fees are pro-rated if participants join after a session has begun. Each session has a maximum of 24 participants. The current session has 14.

Biello said the partnership between the city and First Link, an early intervention service designed to connect families affected by Alzheimer’s disease with services, is a great collaboration. The program is funded through the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Continuing Care Services and the B.C. Ministry of Health Services.

Minds in Motion is $42 per couple per seven-week session and is held at Beban Park’s Social Centre. To register or for more information, please call 250-756-5200, go to or contact the Alzheimer Resource Centre at 250-734-4171.