Fitting in Physical Activity for Caregivers – 6 Easy Steps

We all know that physical activity has numerous health benefits. We also know that with a busy lifestyle, it can be difficult to make time for physical activity no matter how hard we might try. In fact, recent reports show that more than half of Americans do not participate in regular physical activity.  This is most definitely true for busy caregivers who are often so busy caring for loved ones that they have little time to take care of themselves. Physical activity is so important for a caregiver’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Here are some of the many reasons why…

Physical activity can:

  • Assist in weight management
  • Maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce risk of common diseases, such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes
  • Improve mood and psychological well-being
  • Boost energy and combat fatigue

How much physical activity is recommended?*

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. Even if you are not able to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity, small amounts of physical activity can still be of benefit. If you are not currently exercising regularly, you can start slowly and gradually increase the duration and the intensity of your activities.

If it is too difficult to include exercise into your current lifestyle, there are ways to incorporate physical activity by replacing other daily routines. Even activities such as housework, shopping, or gardening are considered light intensity activities. Small changes can make a big impact – other than the physical benefits, exercise can help relieve stress and clear your mind. This will help give you more physical and emotional stamina to be the best caretaker you can be.

Easy ways to fit in more physical activity:

  • Limit screen time – try to cut down the amount of time spent on watching TV and other forms of electronic use. If you are watching TV, you can use an exercise machine at the same time.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Transportation – if possible, walk or bike to your destination instead of driving
  • Take an exercise break at work to stretch and take a quick walk. This will give you health benefits, as well as a mental break to clear your mind.
  • If you are planning an outing or time away, purposely plan an active trip instead of one that just involves driving.
  • Wear a pedometer and try to increase the number of steps you take everyday.  A great goal is 10,000 steps!

To help get started, take this quick quiz by the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) to assess your current activity level: http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/physical-activity/reduce_physical_quiz.html

Next week in our series of blogs for National Caregiver Month, we will discuss how caregivers can improve their nutritional status by suggesting simple and easy lifestyle changes that can promote good health! Stay tuned!

Referenes:

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/physicalactivity

http://www.cancer.org/healthy/eathealthygetactive/acsguidelinesonnutritionphysicalactivityforcancerprevention/acs-guidelines-on-nutrition-and-physical-activity-for-cancer-prevention-guidelines

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1996). Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved June 26, 2009, from: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/sgr.htm.

*NOTE: Before beginning any new exercise regimen be sure to discuss with your healthcare team

Aoi Goto, DTR

Aoi is a dietetic technician and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University. She began as an intern at Savor Health in her senior year before joining the team as the Community Manager. Her work involves customer service, managing website/blog/social media, and assisting with various projects. She is interested in the oncology field and plans to continue her education to become a Registered Dietitian.

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