Saturday, January 9, 2016

Simple Ideas to Help Caregivers Get Active and Feel Better

Let’s explore some simple exercises for caregivers to get active.

In just 10-minute units, you can get out of that afternoon slump and start feeling better. Of course, check with your doctor to see what level and intensity of exercise is most appropriate for you. And don’t forget to cool down, and have a large glass of water after any physical exertion.

Here’s how it’s done. Health experts say we need to get 150 minutes or two-and-a-half hours of moderately intense exercise every week. That amounts to about 20 minutes a day. Why not try out some of the following, as recommended by the Harvard Women’s Health Watch? Or be creative, and line up your own favorite brief calorie burners. Keep in mind that some exercises require longer periods of time to gain the benefits.

1. Plant a garden (Calories burned in 10 minutes: 40 to 55). Digging, hoeing, weeding and carrying tools from house to garden really do burn calories. Also, consider this. It not only works the muscles and lifts the spirits, but a garden of fresh vegetables can provide the added benefit of promoting a healthy diet.

2. Walk the dog (Calories burned in 10 minutes: 40 to 50). Dogs make great exercise buddies, and dog owners are far more likely to meet the government’s physical activity recommendation than those who don’t have a dog. To gain maximum benefit, let your pet finish his “business,” before you start your exercise clock. And don’t forget: keep up a brisk pace to get the most out of dog walking.

3. Clean house (Calories burned in 10 minutes: 45 to 50). Housework may not be your idea of exercise, but you’d be surprised how using old-fashioned elbow grease can help you get fitter. Put aside the mechanical aids and go for the broom and mop. When washing the dishes, you can stand on one leg—then the other—to improve your balance. When you breathe deeply along with the exercise, you gain the additional benefit of relaxation.

4. Play with the children or grandchildren (Calories burned in 10 minutes: 40 to 60). Instead of passively reading a story or sitting on a park bench, try playing right along with the kids. Hide-and-seek, playing ball, pushing them on a swing and bustling around the park can be a bright spot in everyone’s day and get your heart rate going.

5. Walk the neighborhood (Calories burned in 10 minutes: 40 to 50). Nothing suits a busy caregiver better than moving outside for fresh air and sunshine. I guarantee it. You’ll feel rejuvenated and reinvigorated. You might want to plug in some music to give you an extra boost as you circle around your familiar territory.

6. Practice Yoga (Calories burned depend on the person and type of yoga; count on at least 100-plus per hour). When you talk with your friend about her yoga workout, she’ll rarely discuss weight loss or calorie burn. People flock to yoga for its mind/ body connection, the sense of oneness and ease you feel. It teaches us to listen to our bodies and naturally avoid unhealthy behaviors. That should be recommendation enough. Yoga need not be your sole means of exercise, though. If you have the time and motivation, try cycling, running or vigorous dancing. These burn a lot more calories per hour compared to yoga.

7. Swimming (Calories for one hour of laps: 476). If you can find a longer stretch of time during your day, you’ll discover swimming in your local pool to be an ideal exercise. It’s easy on the joints, strengthens your lungs and serves as a full-body, aerobic workout. What’s more, swimming is calming, counters daily stress and is especially refreshing during the warmer months of the year.

No matter your age, exercise helps keep your weight down and maintain good cardiovascular health.

Other reasons why you should get off the couch and try regular exercise include: (1) better overall health, (2) improved mood and (3) stronger bones. For older adults in particular, regular exercise reduces the risk of cognitive impairment and falling. If you can’t get out of the house or spend time away from your loved one, an exercise bike or mini stepper could be a lifesaver.

Start with those first steps: Get yourself in gear, and then stick with it!

Excerpt from The ABCs of Caregiving, Part 2: Essential Information for You and Your Family, available in paperback and Kindle on


  1. Great ideas! I'm sharing the link with my caregiver community in next week's newsletter :).


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