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Taking Care of The Caregiver: How To Exercise While Caring For Older Adults


You’re working full time, raising a family, taking care of your home, and keeping a watchful eye on your aging parents. No matter how well you juggle, keeping yourself healthy becomes a challenge. Exercise is an integral part of self-care, and it’s essential for caregiver wellness.

Exercise can help you to:

  • Stay mentally fit
  • Maintain the energy and stamina needed to care for your loved ones
  • Reduce stress
  • Increases energy
  • Increase the quality of sleep

Not only does exercising have a whole host of benefits for your overall life, but it can also help focus on two very important parts of your health:

Activates the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is responsible for removing waste, bacteria, toxins, and viruses from your body. However, unlike an organ (such as the heart which pumps blood), the lymphatic system requires the contraction of your muscles to make it work. So it’s up to you to ensure the lymphatic system does its job properly.

This is why it’s so important to get moving throughout the day. This is especially true for seniors and those who use a wheelchair or other walking aids. If you remain too sedentary, excess fluids can build up and cause swelling your extremities. According to MD Anderson Senior Physical Therapist, Sarah Cleveland, stimulating the lymphatic system is key to ensuring that fluid circulates throughout the body. Here is a video that shares some exercises to get the lymphatic system going!

Gives Your Brain A Serotonin Boost

Activities like jogging, biking, and swimming can help stimulate neurotransmitters like serotonin in the body – the brain chemical that can improve mood and sleep/wake cycles. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can help boost serotonin levels, reducing the risk of experiencing things like anxiety and depression, something many people, especially seniors, are experiencing due to prolonged periods of isolation.

How To Get Exercise Without Hitting the Gym Daily

We get it. Making your way to the gym every day is another stressful addition to your day. There are many ways to get your heart rate up without spending an hour on a treadmill or exercise bike.

1) Safety

Staying fit can be both fun and safe, even for older adults. Just because someone is getting older doesn’t mean that they cannot participate in activities that can stimulate their health. Find an activity that matches with their level of ability and do it for at least 30 minutes a day. You can participate in it as well, giving you a chance to do light exercise during your day.

2) Walking

Walking with your loved one is a great way to exercise and spend time together. An enjoyable walk in the park or around the neighborhood can be beneficial for both of you. Is it cold outside? Take your walk indoors to a nearby mall and window shop while getting in a 30 or 45-minute brisk stroll.

3) Yardwork/Chores

Another excellent way to stay fit without a gym membership is with yard and housework. Take care of the lawn and garden work yourself instead of hiring a service. You can rake leaves, mow the lawn, and tend to the flowers.

4) Use a Wheelchair or Mobility Device

Using your loved one’s wheelchair or mobility device to create fun, new fitness activities can help with the boredom that often comes with working out. It also allows them to participate in activities they may not otherwise be able to. Finding accessible walking paths for you or taking classes such as chair yoga are two great ideas. Your exercise can come from participating in those activities with them, such as taking them down a trail in their wheelchair or helping them move their body in a yoga class. These activities are often short, so you can incorporate them easily into your schedule. Here are some other great activities for mobility challenged seniors.

5) Combining Exercise and Socialization

Finding community fitness groups can provide both you and your loved one with socialization while exercising despite a busy schedule. Many caregivers often find friends within these networks, creating an unexpected social support system – a form of self-care that caregivers often unintentionally neglect.

6) Bowling

Bowling can be a great way to incorporate fitness into your routine. Plus, it’s a fun way to work out! Although it’s not the most physically intensive activity, it is an anaerobic exercise that can help you burn calories and have fun with your loved one. Bowling is also a sport that can be easily accessible for someone that uses a wheelchair or other mobility device.

7) Dance Fitness

Dance fitness is another great way to incorporate exercise in a condensed manner, fitting it into your schedule. Bond with your loved one through taking a class that incorporates music from their favorite decade. Not only will this increase their mood, but it will also give you a fun way to stay fit within your busy schedule.

Make Exercise A Priority

It’s clear to see the endless benefits of exercise and the positive effect it can have on your overall well-being. For some added motivation here is a printable reminder that you can put on your refrigerator door or your bathroom mirror. Just right click on the image and print!

exercise image

Don’t Delay, Start Today.

So, are you ready to start exercising? Remember, it’s never too late to incorporate regular fitness into your lifestyle. You need to take care of your health and wellbeing to take care of your loved one.

For more information on how to balance your schedule as a busy caregiver, contact Tribute today to join our support group.

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