Before my son was injured, I exercised regularly. It made me feel better and helped to shape and tone my body. However, I had to choose wisely what type of exercise I did and the length of time I spent doing it due to my health issues. There were days when migraines, neuropathy, fibromyalgia or neck and back issues would prevent me from getting the exercise I needed. At other times, I would also suffer painful consequences from overdoing it.
Riding a bike was a form of exercise I could handle fairly well. Years ago, I purchased a recumbent bike that I put in my den so I could watch television, or read, and exercise at the same time. But my favorite bike rides were those outside – around my neighborhood or exploring bike trails and parks. There was nothing like getting back to nature and enjoying fresh air and sunshine to lift your spirits.
I would also go once a week on what I called “walk and talk” times with my best friend. It's amazing how quickly time flew when you were exercising with a friend! Before we knew it, an hour or more had passed with fast walking and good talking!
All that changed when I became a caregiver. Though I clocked plenty of miles while we were at the rehab facility, I no longer had long distances to walk once we came home. We were now in a small accessible apartment in the city and caregiving duties made me so exhausted all I wanted to do was sleep in my “spare” time.
As my son became more independent, I realized I had no excuse for not exercising a few times a week. The apartment complex even had a small gym. With good intentions, I would begin going to the gym but then something would happen that sidelined me from regularly working out.
I really struggled with getting into a good exercise routine even though I started with just small goals. Stress and depression often affected my desire to exercise yet I personally felt it was one of the best “medicines”. Finally when the weather warmed up and the winter blues started to disappear, I found the motivation I needed to get out and walk.
Because I lived in the city away from friends who were once my walking buddies, I found that it helped to phone a friend and talk to them while walking. I am not a city girl and did not enjoy the “industrial” scenery and noisy traffic near where I lived. At times, I would even drive to nearby parks for more attractive scenery.
Recently my son and I moved into his new modified home in the suburbs! What a mood lifter that has been for me. Now I can go for enjoyable walks in the neighborhood and I look forward to meeting our new neighbors. I also plan on getting my bike (that has been stored at a friend's house) and begin riding outside again. There is also more room to do exercises on the living room floor. I am actually excited about getting back into a good exercise routine!
I have shared with you my own struggle with exercising while caregiving because I know so many of you are extremely busy, exhausted, and feel you don’t have the time or energy to exercise. But in our journey of learning to care for ourselves, we need to make time for it. You may have many false starts but don’t give up! Find what type of exercise you like and can do and incorporate it into your regular routine. Exercise is so very important to our physical and emotional well being.
Since most caregivers have so little time for themselves, I thought I would share simple ways to make it part of your routine:
1) Try to set aside at least 30 minutes a few days a week to get started exercising. Increase time as your schedule allows.
2) If you like to walk but can’t leave your home every day, speed walk in place while watching TV, talking to a friend, or listening to music.
3) If you can leave your loved one for about an hour, take a walk outside and get that much needed break as well. Ask a friend to go with you if you can. It's much more enjoyable with good company. But don’t forget to take your phone!
4) Put on some music and dance! If you have young kids, they might like to dance with you.
5) Purchase an exercise DVD and use it!
6) Buy some light weights and exercise bands to use at home.
7) Find ways to turn household chores into exercise. There are articles and websites that offer tips to combine both.
8) If you can afford the time and money to leave the house a few times a week, then think about purchasing a gym membership and taking some fun classes.
9) Try something new and different if you are bored with your routine. Keeping exercise fun and fresh helps to keep you motivated!
Are you struggling with exercising too? What activities and kinds of exercises do you like to do? As caregivers, let’s motivate and encourage each other to get moving in the right direction!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0517/0487