If you are feeling stressed out and weary from your role of family caregiver, it may seem like fitting exercise into your day is impossible. You might feel like there just isn’t time. As a result, you could be neglecting your own wellbeing and end up experiencing a health crisis.
Besides helping you stay physically fit, exercise yields other benefits:
- Reduce caregiver stress: Exercise helps relax tense muscles. For caregivers, stress is a part of everyday life. It often results in neck pain, back problems, digestive issues, and headaches. Exercising three to four times a week can help keep muscles relaxed and help the body learn to better manage stress.
- Produce “feel-good” hormones: Engaging in physical exercise causes a release of endorphins, known as the body’s “feel-good” hormones. They help promote better mental health and stronger immunity while also modulating appetite. People who stay active have lower rates of anxiety and depression than those who don’t exercise.
- Manage caregiver guilt: Family caregivers often live with fear and guilt. They may worry that they aren’t doing a good job caring for their loved one or that they are short-changing their family because they are so busy with caregiving responsibilities. Exercising has meditative benefits that can give caregivers a chance to clear their mind and put things in perspective.
While it’s obvious that exercise has many benefits for family caregivers, what isn’t as obvious is how to work it into a busy schedule. We have a few tips for doing that, as well as some suggestions on types of exercise a caregiver should consider.
Working Exercise into a Busy Caregiver’s Day
- Work out with the senior: Explore opportunities for you and your senior loved one to work out together. Depending on their physical abilities, walking, swimming, and chair yoga are good activities to enjoy together. The Go4Life website created by the National Institute on Aging has some more senior-friendly options, including exercises to build strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance.
- Break up exercise: While most physicians suggest people exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week, it doesn’t have to be in one continuous block. You can reap the same health benefits from breaking exercise up into more manageable amounts. For example, you could start your day with 15 minutes on a stationary bike and finish it with a 15-minute walk or Pilates routine.
- Lifestyle adjustments: If you are someone who always takes the elevator or parks in the spot closest to the door at the grocery store, alter your routine. Park further away from the door if it is safe to do so. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Seated exercises: Many caregivers also work at least part-time outside the home. That makes it even more difficult to find time to work out. If you have a job that requires you to spend all or part of the day seated at your desk, learn a few ways to “Deskercise!” This is a term used for different forms of exercise you can do at your desk. You can also improve your core strength by replacing your desk chair with an exercise ball for at least part of the day.
If you are looking for more ways to protect your health while you are caring for a senior loved one, our resource “Taking Care of the Caregiver” may be of interest. From support groups to respite care and self-acceptance, you’ll find useful caregiving advice.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living