Tips and resources to help you throughout your caregiving journey

Get active! Tips to promote physical activity

I want to talk about how being physically active, regardless of your age, is a great way to stay healthy and improve overall well-being! In caring for others, especially older adults, staying physically active for life is even more important.

In my experience, I have heard caregivers tell me they run into challenges when trying to encourage the person they are caring for -to participate in daily physical activities such as walking or completing the exercise program I provided.

I feel such challenges can create a stressful situation if they do not want to participate in the exercises or any physical activity despite our best efforts. I want to share some helpful tips on how to become more physically active with the person in your care and continually engage them in physical activity for life.

Before promoting a more active lifestyle, please consult with a health care professional such as a primary care provider or a physiotherapist to ensure that the person you are caring for is safe to participate in the types of physical activity you want to promote.

Meaningful physical activity

Assuring the person in your care that you are on their side and understand their goals are great steps forward in building a good relationship with exercise and physical activities. I find knowing what their goals are can provide a means to motivate them to participate in an exercise or activity program.

Consider asking questions such as:

  • “What would you like to achieve?”
  • “Do you have any goals you would like to work on?”

Using the information they provide you, see if you can link them to their prescribed exercises or a new appropriate activity they can do. Encourage them that they can achieve their goals if they participate in those activities routinely.

Physical activity buddy system

Working out with friends has social benefits as well, so join in on the fun! Doing exercises with the person you care for provides them with encouragement and you can be a great cheerleader. You can also be accountable to each other in doing the exercises. Knowing you are  ’in it together’ can give the person you care for a sense of inclusion and responsibility.

Double-duty activities

Incorporating exercises into everyday activities will help make them seem like no work at all. For example when I work with a client who wants to improve their walking, I take the long way around or take an extra lap around the area before we get to our destination to get more practice and steps in.

Incorporating exercises into everyday tasks will make them feel less onerous and provides the one you care for with a more physically active lifestyle.

Make exercise part of their daily routine

Encourage the person in your care to schedule a regular time in the day to complete an exercise program or physical activity.

Completing the exercise program at the same time each day (for example, every day after lunch) will ingrain the activity into their schedule and become part of their regular, daily routine.

Make physical activity fun!

Exercises may not always appear interesting but you can help make daily physical activity fun by using imagination and enlisting the help of family and friends.

For example, I had a client who became deconditioned after coming home from the hospital due to a fall. He wanted to not feel as tired and get back to feeling like himself again. To get stronger, a key part of his care plan was to participate in an individualized exercise program. There was one problem – he was not a fan of doing exercises. He would say “I’ve done exercise all my life – I don’t need to do anymore…”. During my visit with him, I discovered he used to be a boxer. To get him engaged in doing exercises and physical activity, I asked him if he could show me some of his boxing moves. In our visits, I labelled our exercise program as training sessions – where we did footwork drills and practiced throwing punches. He was being physically active and engaged while having a good time!  Even now, I can still hear him saying “Keep your weight back!”

Another suggestion is involving family members such as grandchildren can make the exercises feel like a game rather than a chore. Playing catch with a softball or bouncing a balloon can give the one you care a great workout while allowing them to have fun at the same time.

Positivity in numbers

Participating in a group exercise class is a great way for the person in your care to become more active and social. The participants in the class can be a new social group fwhereby they can motivate each other during the class and enjoy each other’s company. Some classes may be free of charge to the person you care for. Contact your local community centre for more information.

I hope you gained knowledge and you can add my tips to your toolkit of skills. Let us know how you used one of tips with the person you care for and/or how you motivate someone to get more active!

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