Man with Alzheimer's Hikes the Same Mountain Every Day
Every day, before some parts of the world even wake up, 68-year-old Sian Jair laces up his hiking boots and prepares to climb The Old Man of Coniston, which is a mountain located in the English Lake District near Cumbria, England. With an elevation of 2,634 feet (803m), it’s far from a simple morning stroll. Its rugged landscape may offer picturesque views, but it’s an uphill battle that requires concentration and a general knowledge of hiking.
Sian Jair has climbed the “Old Man” 5,000 times and can even do it blindfolded. He can also say that he has guided countless people and rescued someone who was lost once or twice. That, in itself, is pretty astounding, but what makes his daily hike even more amazing is that Sian Jair has Alzheimer's disease.
Since 1968, Jair has climbed the “Old Man”, and sometimes, he has even scaled it twice a day. Winter or summer, The Old Man became a sense of comfort for Jair, who faces Alzheimer's, chronic fatigue syndrome, and pernicious anemia. He actually confused his Alzheimer's symptoms for anemia, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's after a brain scan showed his brain had shrunk.
By the time Sian or his doctors even knew that he had the disease, he was in its most advanced stages. However, Sian did the same thing that he always had done when faced with a setback. He laced up his boots and hiked up the same mountain he climbed every day.
Instead of focusing on the disease, he focused on putting one foot in front of the other to make it to the top. He was just doing what came naturally to him, but, in his own way, he was actually treating his disease and delaying his symptoms.
Studies have shown that exercise can delay Alzheimer's symptoms
There are a few studies that show that regular exercise can be very beneficial for treating the disease, just like other forms of treatment. Last year, a paper was released from the University of Kansas that described a group of Alzheimer's patients who were studied for 6 months. During the course of the study, half of the patients were asked to follow an exercise program that included 150 hours of aerobic exercise.
The other half of the participants stretched and did gentle workouts for the same amount of time. By the end of the study, all of the patients reported an improvement in their physical skills. What stood out, however, was that those who did the brisk workouts, like walking, scored significantly better on the cognitive tests that measure their ability to think and remember. In fact, the part of the brain that is linked to memory had grown.
Photo source: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian