Family caregivers are busy people! Many are providing many hours of care per week for their loved one, while juggling a full work schedule, other family responsibilities, even caring for children of their own. It’s easy to see why exercise falls to the bottom of their “to do” list. But recent studies show that providing care for an elderly or disabled loved one can take a toll on caregiver health, putting them at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes—even Alzheimer’s disease. Each of these conditions is directly impacted by the negative effects of inactivity.
According to the American Medical Association, physical activity reduces the risk and slows the progression of a wide range of diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Type 2 diabetes
The impact of exercise on brain health is equally impressive. A study from the Radiological Society of North America reports that a regular walking program slows cognitive decline. Families should take note as well: University of Wisconsin professor J. Carson Smith says, “If you are at higher genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the benefits of exercise to your brain function might be even greater.”
Family caregivers should remember that caring for their own health is a vital part of providing care for their loved one. Take advantage of support resources in your community, both formal and informal. Respite time away from caregiving duties allows family to “recharge their batteries”—and that includes exercise.
Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2014.