Research over the last decade is clear: Caregivers who devote themselves to their loved ones to the exclusion of their own needs become ill. In a study of spousal caregivers (Schulz, et al, 1999), caregivers who experienced mental or emotional strain had a 63 percent higher risk of death than noncaregivers.
Physical activity is proven to improve both mental and physical health. It tackles anxiety, depression and anger. It enhances your immune system and decreases the risk of developing diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It helps maintain a healthy weight. Becoming more physically active can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4 to 9 mm Hg. That's the same reduction in blood pressure delivered by some antihypertensive medications.
Three 10-minute periods of activity are almost as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30-minute session.
For each hour of regular vigorous physical activity some adults may gain about two hours of life expectancy. Moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, for as little as 30 minutes a day has health benefits such as:
- Improves self-image and energy levels
- Improves muscle tone and muscle strength
- Improves circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease
- Helps prevent bone loss
- Promotes enthusiasm and optimism
- Reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30–40 percent
- Reduces risk of stroke by 20 percent in moderately active people and by 27 percent in highly active ones
- Helps in the battle to quit smoking
- Helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly
It's also a good idea to spend some time outdoors. Sunlight on your skin helps your body produce vitamin D, which is important for good health.
This content was last reviewed on 12/28/2011.
As a caregiver, you need more than ever to fit physical activity into your life.
Pledge to find at least 30 minutes a day at least five days a week for moderate physical activity.