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Exercise Tips for Busy Caregivers

Posted by Dane Koengeter Aug 22 2016

Dedicating yourself to caregiving demands mental, physical and emotional attention leaving the caregiver with very little personal time. Maintaining a strong physical foundation can be crucial in a caregiver’s prevention of injury, maintenance of cardiovascular fitness, stress relief, and continued progress toward any personal fitness goals.

It can be hard to find time but remember that the benefits of regular exercise are worth the few minutes a day. Some of these benefits include: weight management, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved bone density, increased flexibility, increased mood and mental health, decreased likelihood of dangerous falls and maybe even a few toned muscles to show for it.

Being a caregiver means that time spent exercising must be as effective and efficient as possible in order to return to caregiving as soon as possible. It is important to make sure that the workout incorporates: a warm-up, core stability, total body movements, exercises in more than one direction, appropriate pacing and a cool down.

Finding a way to get all that into 15 to 20 minutes may seem daunting, but with forethought and creativity it is very manageable. 

Warm-up:  A good warm-up should get the heart rate up and warm the muscle temperature. This gives your muscle a chance to get ready for the stress of the workout. The warm-up is also the perfect time to motivate the mind for the workout.  Exercises like marching in place, bodyweight exercises, walking up and down a flight of stairs, jumping jacks, or even dancing a few minutes are all great ways to get the heart pumping.

Core stability exercise: These are vital to maintaining strong posture, preventing back strains and injury, and overall strength. Any exercise that does not isolate a single muscle can potentially train the core. Planks and modified planks are a perfect way to practice a strong-braced core position. Squeeze your glutes, draw in and tighten your abdominal muscles and pull your shoulder blades back and down is the best braced core position. Other core stability exercises could be: side planks with a leg raise, hip hinges with a reverse fly, split stance bent-over row, lunges with a reach.

Total body movements: Our bodies are not designed to move in only one direction, but are a complicated collection of primary movement muscles, synergist muscles and stabilization muscles. Make sure that exercises involve multiple planes of movements and combine exercises together. Not only is this a great way to train functionally but it is a great way to make your workout more time efficient. Some of these exercises could be: lunges with a twist, press, or shoulder raise, planks with leg or arm raises, stair step ups with a curl, pushups with a rotation at the top, or even medicine ball or milk jug diagonal reaches.

Pace yourself: The key to making sure that your workout is not only making your skeletal muscles stronger but your heart stronger is to appropriately pace your exercises. If your exercise lasts 60 seconds, start by giving yourself 60 seconds of rest time in between sets. If this is too easy, try giving yourself half that time to rest or somewhere in between. Remember, the goal is to keep your heart rate slightly elevated for the duration of the workout. Start slow and build yourself up. Challenge yourself but listen to your body. If pain other than muscle fatigue and soreness occurs, dizziness or nausea occur during a workout, stop immediately and seek help if necessary.

Cool down: After you have worked up a sweat for 15 to 30 minutes, make sure you leave five minutes to static stretch, walk lightly, or do a few of your favorite light yoga poses in order to allow your blood pressure to settle down and redistribute blood flow. This is the perfect time to mentally organize yourself and prepare to return to caregiving duties.

Keep in mind that not all exercises fit all. Safety is of the utmost importance and if you are not sure what exercises you can or should do, seek help from a nationally accredited personal trainer, physical therapist, or other heath and fitness professional. He or she will be able to help you come up with a short exercise routine that is right for you and your fitness level. If you have your own fitness equipment at home, get creative. A single dumbbell, textbook, or bottle of water can be used for exercises like curls, squats, lunges, flies, presses, and reaches. Stairs, counters, chairs and couches all make elevated surfaces for step-ups, pushups, single leg squats, and planks.

Dane Koengeter is a Certified Personal Trainer with experience in strength and conditioning, post rehabilitation training, corrective exercise, weight loss, and in home client training. He is currently working as a technician in an outpatient clinic setting and plans to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

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