The benefits of exercise are well documented. Regular physical activity leads to better sleep and reduces stress while also increasing energy and alertness — all upsides for someone in a family caregiving role.
But for time-strapped caregivers, finding a few moments for their care partners — much less themselves —
to exercise can seem impossible.
Filling those gaps doesn’t have to include gym memberships or complicated fitness routines, however. Caregivers can take simple steps to incorporate — and track — physical activity in their lives and the lives of their care partners to improve the health of both parties.
Take small steps
Physical activity is important for adults of any age, but that doesn’t mean you have to run 10 miles every day. Low-impact activities such as walking, stretching and seated exercise can make a big difference.
The Family Caregiver Alliance recommends incorporating it into daily activities and inviting care partners to join if they’re able, such as taking a walk around the block.
Another tip for trying to work fitness into a packed schedule is doing frequent short exercises instead of ones that require long periods of time.
An easy exercise to start with is walking for 20 minutes a day a few times a week. If you can’t be away from your care partner for that amount of time, try walking as frequently as your schedule allows.
It’s important to avoid having an all-or-nothing attitude about physical activity: Even taking a walk around the yard, an extra lap around the grocery store or a few passes through a nearby park or mall are better than doing nothing at all.
You also could consider asking family, friends or neighbors to sit with your care partner while you take a few minutes for yourself — or you might consider finding more formal forms of respite care that would give you a break from your caregiving duties.
Tools to help
Caregivers don’t need to go it alone when it comes to managing their physical health.
Technology such as wearable fitness trackers can be incorporated into caregiving routines and help caregivers track their care partner’s physical activity and key health indicators, such as blood pressure, heart rate and calories burned daily.
While the technology initially was geared toward young adults, more and more people age 65 and older are jumping on the tech trend. Wearable fitness tracker manufacturers have taken note and now are creating senior-friendly models.
These devices also can be incorporated into caregivers’ self-care routines, which often may take a back seat to his or her care partner’s needs. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, that’s important because 11 percent of family caregivers report their caregiving responsibilities have caused their physical health to deteriorate.
Remember: Even small changes can make a world of difference in the physical health of caregivers and their care partners.
2nd Half with Lyngblomsten: Discover resources and services for caregivers and their care partners, including wellness offerings, respite care, support groups and more.
Senior Care Corner: Read a blog post on the benefits of wearable fitness devices for seniors.
Next Avenue: Explore techno-logies that can help caregivers with fitness, health and safety.
Family Caregiver Alliance: Explore extensive statistics about the effects of caregiving on one’s physical health.
Brandi Jewett is a writing specialist with Lyngblomsten, a Christian nonprofit organization that provides health care, housing and community resources to older adults in the Twin Cities. Lyngblomsten is a member of the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative.