As a caregiver, good health and lots of energy are fundamental. Exercise can help you stay healthy and in shape and maintain that energy that you need in order to perform at your best every day, as well as reversing the signs of aging. In fact, a recent study published in Preventive Medicine has shown, through analyzing nearly 6,000 adults, that people who exercise the most have biological aging markers that appear around nine years younger than those who don’t; exercise also helps in the prevention of diseases and in the fight against chronic illness.
Exercising can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it in a while; however, there are plenty of reasons to start exercising!
Physical activity helps you add years to your life, but it also helps you look better, feel sharper, have more energy and feel better in general. Exercise will allow you to lose weight as metabolism slows with age, as well as reducing the impact of illness and enhancing flexibility and mobility. Furthermore, exercise helps you sleep better, reduces stress, increases your self confidence and is very beneficial for the brain, aiding in the prevention of memory loss and cognitive decline.
Last but not least, exercise also keeps you happy and positive, two very important characteristics for caregivers!
By exercising regularly, you will be able to stay healthy and continue to be a caregiver for many years.
Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean exercising for hours on your first day; you can start small, with as little as walking for 5 minutes a day. Aim for 10 minutes within a week, and perhaps half an hour a month from then. Recording your progress can help you visualize your goals better and plan the steps to reach them.
Remember to choose something you enjoy doing at first and don’t overdo it! You will get there if you don’t set unrealistic goals and stick to your plan.
To reap the most benefits, you should eventually aim to include different types of exercise into your plan. Cardiovascular exercises get your heart pumping and healthy, and are an excellent way to lose weight, whereas strength training builds muscle and improves tone. Finally, flexibility exercises, such as stretching and yoga, lengthen and stretch muscles and can help you prevent injuries, back pain and balance problems.
Although starting small and easy is very much recommended, various studies, including the one mentioned previously, have shown that there is a huge difference between moderate and high levels of exercise. While moderate exercise is still valuable and has some benefit, it is generally high levels of physical activity which makes the real difference. Top exercisers aim to work out vigorously from 150 to 200 minutes a week, or in alternative engage in light-to-moderate intensity activity for longer periods. Furthermore, research suggests that exercising more means reducing your risk for chronic disease.
High Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, has been shown to be the best exercise for anti-aging. This form of training involves alternating between intervals of high intensity training and intervals of relatively low impact. An easy example is to alternate between periods of sprinting and periods of light jogging or walking. Keep in mind that even trained athletes can’t sprint for much longer than a minute, so it’s ok if you can only manage half of that!
HIIT forces mitochondria in our bodies, tiny energy factories that live inside our cells, to work harder and better. The more mitochondria we have, the more energy we have and the more efficiently we’ll be able to use that energy. Unfortunately, older individuals have much fewer mitochondria as compared to young children. Mitochondria also prevent decline with age and turn back many of the physical changes we associate with aging, allowing us to stay sharp and active, both mentally and physically.
Wear the Right Clothing
Exercise is fun, but if you’re wearing the wrong type of clothing it can be stressful and uncomfortable. Look for clothing which is loose and comfortable, allowing for easy movement. There are plenty of stylish options out there, designed to keep you safe and warm.
Have Fun and Be Comfortable With Yourself!
If you really want to create lasting healthy exercise habits, it is important that you pick something that makes you happy. In order for exercise to be effective, you must be consistent, and doing something you love is an excellent way to stay motivated. Furthermore, having that special time to yourself to do something you truly enjoy will help you unwind and relieve stress at the end of a tough day. If you like to dance, sign up for Zumba, salsa or tango classes. If you enjoy spending time in the water, perhaps aqua gym or swimming can be a better choice. If you’re looking to deeply relax, unwind and de-stress, go for yoga or pilates. Whether it’s HIIT or simply taking long walks in your favorite park, remember…taking care of yourself is important and every little step counts!
About Jess Walter
Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.