Who has time for exercise when you're a caregiver, especially if you're also a parent and working? If and when you have any spare time, you're probably craving Netflix and ice cream.
If you can’t find time to exercise alone, be active with the person you’re caring for.
The good news is that there are easy ways to squeeze in and reap the benefits of exercise to increase your strength and help you stay healthy. Below, are a few easy exercises for caregivers to help lower stress and reduce your risk of caregiver burnout.
Walking exercise for caregivers
Walking is likely the easiest way to exercise and also one of the best. Lace up and get outside as often as possible, whether you can fit in 10 minutes or 30 minutes of walking. It is also a great stress release and can be much-needed alone time to help to clear your head. Change your walking route sometimes to avoid boredom.
Adjust your pace depending on your mood. A more brisk walk will elevate your heart rate, a slower pace can help you focus on your surroundings. Just check your breathing -- you should still be able to carry on a conversation while walking.
15 minute yoga for caregivers
The physical, mental and spiritual benefits of a regular yoga practice are ideal for caregivers. Classes in yoga studios are often flexible so that you don’t need to commit to a particular day or time. Yoga is also easy to do at home. Just roll out a mat and get started. There are great online yoga videos that focus on different aspects of yoga for any level, in as little as 15 minutes.
Yoga practice for caregivers is also about focusing on the breath, and mindfulness, which are really quite beneficial. Also see our Elizz article, Why Caregiver Meditation Is So Important.
Easy strength training for caregivers
We often use different muscle groups for more physically demanding caregiving tasks like lifting and moving the person in our care. Strength training for caregivers is important, but it doesn’t require a gym membership or expensive equipment. Try these caregiver exercises that only take a few minutes in your own home:
- Chair squats: Start in a seated position on a firm chair, like a dining chair. Place your feet hip width apart. Stand up, slowly lower yourself into a squat, and return to standing. Repeat 5-10 times to start.
- Abdominal and oblique crunches: Strengthening your core is not only good for you, but it will help you with more physically demanding caregiving tasks. It’s important to do abdominal crunches properly, or try also using a fitness ball.
- Modified push-ups: The push-up is a classic strengthening exercise but the thought of doing them might make you cringe. Watch these Mayo Clinic online videos for easier modified push-up options.
Stretches for caregivers
Throughout the course of a busy day, caregivers can hold tension in different muscle groups. Taking a few minutes to do stretch exercises will release this tension and help improve flexibility. Aim for 3-4 stretching breaks a day. Alternate doing easy seated or standing stretch exercises for your back, torso, hamstrings, triceps and quads.
Getting active together
If you can’t find time to exercise alone, be active with the person you’re caring for. This is a great way to make caregiver exercises fun while spending meaningful time together. Gear the activity to the person’s interests and abilities.
Do either of you have a dog? Take your furry companion for walks together. Try activities like yoga, bowling, swimming or biking together, or take your children to the park.
If the person you care for is a senior, balance exercises like Tai Chi can help to prevent falls.
As a not-for-profit organization, Eizz is the place to go for all things caregiving and is powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care. For more information about caregiver exercises, or to learn more about Elizz support services for you or for the person in your care, please contact Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).