At no time has my mental and physical fitness been tested as severely as when I was a caregiver for my parents. The mental strain of worry, trying to stay organized, worry, working, attempting to carry on a reasonable life, and worry certainly took its toll. Helping move my mother around when she lost the ability to walk was a test any weightlifter would respect.
Getting and staying fit after 50 is important for all baby boomers, but it is literally an investment in your life, if you are a caregiver. You could also Contact CaregiverNC for the best at home care in Raleigh and throughout all of North Carolina.
Every little bit of movement helps, and the ongoing benefits are illness prevention, better sleep, more energy and greater confidence. A quote I have on my refrigerator says, “When you are in good shape, you move through space differently.”
The great thing is that you don’t have to run the New York City Marathon, ride the Tour de France or be Mr. Olympia to be reasonably fit and feel better. Brisk walking, walking a hilly course, jogging or running at a comfortable pace, aerobic exercise classes, water aerobics, dance, and simple calisthenics and strength training are ways you can up your fitness game.
Here’s an example: Someone asked President Harry Truman’s secret for his high-energy level. He supposedly said, “You should take your dog for a walk every day, even if you don’t have a dog.”
Walking is, hands down, the best basic exercise. In fact, new research is showing that walking may reduce anxiety in some older women. You can speed up, slow down and walk hills to increase intensity. By carrying a small dumbbell or can of food in each hand and curling them as you walk you improve muscle tone in your arms; hold them over your head and you get a shoulder workout.
Here are a few simple suggestions to make fitness fun, and, remember, there are no age limits on fun.
- LOOK FOR FITNESS FRIENDS. Find a walking buddy, or someone to work out with. Check out exercise and dance classes. Look for organized groups that move (birding, walking historical tours or hiking groups, etc.).
- HANG OUT WITH KIDS. If you have grandchildren, you know that playing with them can be a workout. Remember, any movement within your limits is good. Encourage them to come outside with you and move around. If they are addicted to video games, check out the Wii Sports games you actively play. If they want to go old school, check out DDR (Dance Dance Revolution).
- TAKE A LESSON. What type of activity would you like to participate in but don’t know how? Try golf, tennis, rowing or the court game pickleball!
- HEAD TO THE GYM. Even if you need someone to care for the one you take care of while you’re gone, the strength training you gain is worth it. Find a knowledgeable, patient instructor and use light weight amounts to start. Even slight strength gains will double your confidence level.
- LOOK FOR A SWIMMING HOLE. Whether a “Cement Pond” (pool to “The Beverly Hillbillies”), lake, river or ocean, water is incredibly therapeutic. Don’t worry about swimming the English Channel, simply get in the water and move. In fact, for my money, moving in water is as good as walking with less impact on joints.
Think about it this way: Fitness should be fun. You’ve already had the guy with the whistle wearing the stretchy pants and baseball cap. You want to be as fit as you need to be to live the life you want and need to live. If you are a caregiver, you have mental, emotional and physical challenges other folks may not have and those issues require a different level of fitness.
Be sure to start slow, find movement (forget the word exercise) you like, look for easy ways to increase your strength and endurance, and relax. Finally, check with your physician before starting any sort of exercise program. If he or she starts to give you the fitness lecture, simply say, “Hey, chill out. I’m just going out to have a little fun.”
Article credit to Mike Collins, who is the producer of the video, “Care for the Caregiver,” winner of a National Caregiver Friendly Award from Today’s Caregiver Magazine. For ways to deal with the craziness of caregiving, visit www.crazycaregiver.com.