Note from Terri Weber, UK Elder Care Coordinator: I would like to thank Ryan Mason, MS, CSCS, and Exercise Physiology PhD Candidate at the UK Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, for being our guest blogger for June/July.  Ryan is also a Health and Wellness Program Exercise Specialist with UK Health & Wellness. Thank you Ryan for sharing your expertise with us!
The role of caregiver for a family member can be a psychologically and physiologically daunting task. Add this on top of your regularly scheduled job and you have a recipe for a break down either mentally, physically, or both. Everyone wants what is best for their loved ones, but it is important to remember to take care of yourself. Participating in some sort of self-preservation can be one of the most important things you do as a caregiver. Luckily, exercise can help.

Research has shown that people who are physically active have a much lower risk of developing depression and anxiety than people who are sedentary. Additionally, there is a correlation between physical activity and cheerful emotions. What makes this news even better is the amount of time engaged in exercise to achieve a morale boost. Even as little as 10 minutes of exercise a couple times per week is associated with a positive attitude. This relationship does appear to continue further with increased amounts of exercise. People who reach the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) guideline of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week (30 minutes, 5 days/wk) are generally happier than people who get less or no exercise. 

Among caregivers, one of the number one injuries is low back strain. Performing manual handling task has a direct relationship with an increased risk of low back pain. Performing strength training can assist in reducing the prevalence of low back pain two-fold. One, by strengthening the lower back, the perceived effort of moving a loved one will be reduced. Secondly, working with a knowledgeable staff member or trainer at the gym can help facilitate better mechanics elsewhere in life. The use of bracing and core stabilization learned through resistance training can have a positive impact on the structural integrity of your spine and lessen the likelihood of low back injury.  

Remember, to be there for your loved one, you must first be there for yourself. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can provide several health benefits. Make sure you are doing all that you can to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy to increase the amount of time you are capable of being a caregiver.

Ryan Mason, MS, CSCS
Health and Wellness Exercise Specialist, UK Health & Wellness