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Tips for Using Exercise to Manage Caregiver Stress

December 10, 2015

Tips for Using Exercise to Manage Caregiver Stress
When you are feeling overwhelmed and worn out, the last thing you probably feel like doing is exercising. It’s easy to forget about your own health when you’re busy with a loved one’s care. But exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. 
Here are a few reasons why you should make an all-out effort to exercise, and suggestions you can use to fit a workout in to your busy caregiver schedule. 
Exercise and the Indiana Caregiver
“Why exercise when I’m already exhausted?”
Here’s what the experts have to say about the importance of exercise and caregiving:
  • Exercise releases endorphins, also known as the “happy hormones”.  The increase in endorphins leads to feelings of happiness and modulation of appetite. It also helps to improve the body’s immune response.
  • Almost all forms of exercise relax tense muscles and tissue. That helps caregivers who often suffer from stress-related problems such as neck or back pain and headaches.
  • Biologically, exercise seems to help the body better cope with stress.  It forces all of the physiological systems to communicate better with each other, which in turn teaches you learn how to better respond to stress.
  • Physically active adults have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people.
  • Exercise helps deplete stress hormones and releases mood-enhancing chemicals. Those help caregivers respond to stress in healthier ways.
Advice for Working Exercise in to a Busy Indiana Caregiver’s Schedule
“I’m feeling overwhelmed and over-scheduled. How can I possibly fit exercise into my weekly routine?”
Time is a barrier to many things for busy caregivers. But maintaining your health will give you the energy you need to successfully care for you and your loved one.
Here are a few tips:
  • Put a time on your planner.  Writing down when you will fit exercise in to your day makes it more likely you will stick to your schedule. It also gives you an opportunity to see that you may need to find an alternate caregiver so that you can get away to workout.
  • Do something you love.  Almost any form of exercise or physical activity will help you increase your level of fitness and combat stress. Find one or two types of exercise you enjoy. If you like what you are doing, it will help you stay motivated
  • Start slow. Build your level of fitness slowly. Maybe start with 15 minutes a day, and work up to the recommended goal of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.  
  • Set SMART goals. Having realistic goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound can help you succeed in reaching your fitness objectives.
  • Find a fitness friend.  Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or for a morning walk can be a powerful incentive.  Working out with a friend often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workout.  Having a friend to talk with is a stress reliever as well.
  • Exercise in increments.  If you can’t fit in a 30 minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead.  Interval training ---brief bursts of intense activity at almost full effort—has been shown to be as effective way of as longer duration exercise.
  • Incorporate different forms of exercise. Alternate what time of exercise you do throughout your week.  Variety might be the ticket to staying motivated. Walking, running, cycling and attending an exercise class can all be enhanced by the calming effects of yoga and Pilates.  Don’t forget to add in some strength training exercises at least twice a week.
Caregiver stress and burnout puts your own health at risk. That can affect your ability to continue to provide care for your loved one.  Managing your own health is just as important as the care you are giving others.  Remind yourself that caregivers need care too.
If you are an Indiana caregiver who needs a break, respite care at one of our Five Star Senior Living communities may be the solution. Call the community nearest you to learn more.