Exercise: Keep It Fun

Are you a caregiver for someone with special needs, or for an elderly parent or relative? Do you care for a family, too and hold down a job?

Because of the daily demands on your time and energy, you are someone who really needs to exercise! You have a number of people depending on you. You probably deal with a fair amount of stress, too. And if you’re like many other caregivers, you may put your own needs last.

Any kind of exercise boosts your brain’s feel-good chemicals, like endorphins. Aerobic activities that get your heart pumping, including many sports, shift your focus from any worries or negative thoughts to your movement. Even activities like yoga, though they may not work up a sweat, improve focus, balance, circulation and flexibility.

What if I don’t have time to exercise?

Make time. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for those who depend on you. Exercise maintains and builds strength and fitness, wards off depression and anxiety, and may even help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) diabetes, and heart disease. If you already have any of these diseases, exercise can help improve your health. It also helps you maintain a healthy brain, including your memory, organization, and the ability to learn new things.

So free up at least a half hour to 40 minutes a day for some healthy activity. If you can’t squeeze in daily exercise, shoot for three or four times a week.

  • Ask family members to do your more sedentary house chores. Head outside while they’re busy dusting or cooking.
  • Just say “no” when you’re asked to take on an extra task you don’t like anyway, like volunteering for a school activity.
  • Instead of watching TV, MOVE!
  • Plan exercise into your day. Schedule in that 40 minutes.

I would exercise more if it weren’t so boring.

  • Just get started. Once they’re moving, most people like exercise.
  • Ask a friend to exercise with you. You can encourage each other.
  • Walk or jog while you listen to music on your MP3 player. Exercise isn’t just using weight machines or treadmills. The fresh air is great for you, too. Vary your route to make things interesting.
  • Return to a sport you loved as a kid. Maybe you’d like to rebuild your skills. Find someone to play with or share the time in the activity. Try tennis, ping-pong, biking . . . Or try a new sport.
  • Make it a family affair. Get the kids outside and go for a hike. Play catch. Shoot hoops. Exercise is good for the whole family.
  • Do what fits into your lifestyle. Chores and activities around the home are a good opportunity to burn calories and get your blood moving. These include gardening, raking grass or leaves, trimming bushes.
  • Sneak in exercise. Take the stairs. Park in the spot farthest away from the grocery store.
  • If you’re a goal-setter, look at the benefits of exercise. Would you like to lose weight? Fit into your clothes better? Write down a goal and set a reasonable amount of time for it. Weigh in or use the tape measure once a week and track your progress. Or your goal might be endurance focused. If you start out walking for 10 minutes today, set a goal to walk a half hour within a month.
  • Try to exercise the same time every day. Make it part of your routine. Change it up if it gets boring and try something new.
  • Dancing can be very aerobic. Have you ever tried a Zumba class? Or just put on some music you love and move to the beat wherever you have room in the house.

I have arthritis and other health issues. Exercise is too hard for me.

  • SAFETY FIRST! Work with your doctor on an exercise plan if you have a chronic disease or a limiting injury. Start slow on an activity you really like that is not too taxing. Your doctor will help you set goals. He may also suggest you work with a physical therapist or a trainer.
  • Stop your activity if you develop any symptoms, for instance, if you have joint pains, chest pains or get dizzy with just moderate movement. These are important symptoms to discuss with your doctor.
  • Ask your doctor if there are any types of exercise or activity to avoid.
  • If anything begins to hurt while you’re exercising, don’t force yourself !
  • Find comfortable shoes and clothing that fit the weather and your activity.
  • Start with the more gentle activities, such as yoga, water exercises, and tai chi.
  • Match your physical activity to what you are able to do today. If you can walk for only one block today, that’s enough. Increase your activity as you can do so comfortably.

Regular exercise will contribute to an improved sense of well-being, and make you feel like you’re more in control. You’ll also experience more calm, and less stress!