When you’re a caregiver, finding time for exercise is often the last thing you can imagine fitting into your busy day. But when you consider the numerous benefits of exercise for caregivers and how exercise can improve your overall physical and mental well-being, you may want to make room in your schedule.
It’s important to take care of yourself and stay healthy in order to be able to take care of another person.
Benefits of exercise for caregivers:
- Reduce stress
- Increase energy
- Sleep better
- Lose weight
- Prevent disease
- Feel happy
All these exercise benefits will help to keep you in optimal health. It’s important to take care of yourself and stay healthy in order to be able to take care of another person. If you’re a primary caregiver and you are feeling tired and stressed, you’re more likely to make mistakes that could potentially cause harm to you and/or the person in your care.
Exercise for caregivers is important because it helps to reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. In exchange, the body increases its production of endorphins: natural, feel-good chemicals that occur in the body. When endorphins are released, through exercise for example, you will experience a boost in your mood.
The social aspect of exercises for caregivers can be great at reducing feelings of isolation. Getting out of the house and talking to people while participating in a fun activity can provide you with some much-needed time away from the stresses of caregiving.
Even small changes to your routine can make a big impact on your overall well-being. Simple modifications add up over time. Try parking further from the door, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking the long route to the printer at the office.
If possible, look for simple ways to incorporate movement into your daily caregiving through activities you can do with the person in your care. Pick something manageable and check with the doctor before starting any new activity.
Walking, light stretches, seated exercises, or even a little gardening are all activities that you and the person in your care can enjoy together. The important thing is to move.
* Before starting any new exercise routine, make sure you speak with your doctor.
Guidelines to follow when doing caregiver exercises:
- Do a light warm up and cool down. Take a few minutes to stretch both before and after you exercise. This will help ease any muscle soreness, prevent injury, and increase flexibility.
- Start off with about 10 minutes of exercise a day. Incorporating a walk outdoors is an easy way to get started. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend exercising to 30 minutes a day.
- To find out if you’re exercising hard enough or not enough, try this simple trick: Try talking while you exercise. If you find it difficult to carry on a conversation, you are working too hard. If you’re able to sing while you’re exercising, you’re probably not working hard enough. You should be able to carry on a conversation, but still feel slightly short of breath.
- Start off a movement slowly and build up your speed. Slow down gradually, and try to avoid stopping suddenly. This gives your body time to adjust to the change in exertion.
- Schedule time for exercise into your day. Actually writing it into your schedule will make it something you are more likely to stick with.
- Be consistent. Choose an activity and time commitment for your daily exercise that is manageable.
Exercising - Where to start?
- Walking is the easiest way to add exercise into your day. It’s low-impact, requires only a good pair of walking shoes, and you can enjoy catching up with a friend at the same time. Although walking outdoors is often refreshing, days with inclement weather may deter you from going outside for your walk. Many people participate in walking groups that go for daily walks through their local malls, or an indoor track at a recreation centre.
- There are hundreds of exercise videos available online. Search for videos that focus on stretching, and light strength training exercises. Try to stay away from videos that feature high-impact movements. Online videos make it easy to exercise in your home, and at a time that is convenient for you.
- Group fitness classes are often offered throughout your community. This is a great way to incorporate fitness into your caregiving day while enjoying the company of others. It’s also a good opportunity to try something new. How about yoga or tai chi?
- Swimming is an excellent form of exercise. It’s low-impact, but you engage nearly every muscle group. Plus, getting in the pool is a refreshing addition to your day.
- For those of you who enjoy something a bit more high-energy, look for dance or Zumba classes in your area.
Can you see the benefits of exercise for caregivers? What types of exercise do you enjoy? See our article on 10 Caregiver Stress Relievers.