It is an understatement to say that caregivers of prostate cancer patients have a lot on their plates. Assisting with personal care, transportation to doctor’s appointments, food preparation, medication management…the list goes on.
And here’s the irony: caregivers need care too!
We know it can be difficult to find the time for self-care, but it’s important to remember that your own wellness is still a priority. Oftentimes caregivers may be too burned out to think of exactly what they need for themselves, so I would love the opportunity to provide some suggestions here. This is the first of a three-part series: Self-care for the Caregiver, which will include fitness, nutrition and mindset installments. Let’s start with the basics. Why is fitness important for the caregiver?
The importance of exercise for you, the caregiver:
You might have started reading this and thought “exercise is just not for me right now”. I am here to tell you it is. No one is too out-of-shape, too tired, or too busy to reap the benefits of a regular exercise program. If done right, exercise can help reduce stress, increase energy, and make you a better caregiver. Staying active is also crucial for patients during their prostate cancer journey, and as the caregiver, you can develop healthy fitness habits together with whomever you are caring for, be it a husband, father, or loved one.
Some General Guidelines When You Exercise
- Schedule it. Set aside a specific time every day for exercise. Put it on your calendar as an appointment, just like you would for your patient or loved one.
- Be consistent. To get benefits from any exercise program, do it regularly. This also helps create a positive habit.
- Warm up and cool down: stretch both before and after you exercise.
- Start with as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day and increase gradually to 30 minutes for maximum benefits. Start with as little as three days a week, and work your way up to five or six.
- Use the talk/sing test. To find out if you’re exercising hard enough or not enough, use this simple check. If you can’t talk and exercise at the same time, you may be working too hard. If you can sing and exercise, you’re probably not working hard enough.
- Always ease into an activity for the first five minutes, and slow down the pace for the last five minutes instead of stopping suddenly.
- Take a daily walk, jog or run. Find a friend to walk with. You will encourage each other to stay committed when you’re tempted to take a day off. This is also a great chance to chat with someone, have an emotional check-in, and stay socially engaged. As always, make sure to comply with social distancing guidelines, and always wear a mask when around others.
- Check out exercise classes offered through community centers, gyms and senior centers. Think about what you would enjoy the most, not what others think you should do. Most gyms and studios offer a variety of classes, from yoga to bootcamp and many other non-traditional exercise programs. They are a great way to improve flexibility, muscle tone, and can help you relax. During the coronavirus pandemic most fitness studios and gyms are closed – but many are offering outdoor, socially distanced classes.
- Swim! Swimming is low impact and a great cardiovascular workout. Call your community swimming pools to ask about adult swim times or water exercise classes. Many pools offer classes just for seniors or others who want a less competitive pace.
- Try an exercise video. Since the onset of the pandemic, many at-home fitness videos have become available. Make sure you find the video that is right for you. I am including 3 different videos, including beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. If this is new to you start with the beginner level and progress from there.
A note of caution: Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
5 Minutes From The Couch
5 Minute Beginner Workout
20 Minute Beginner Workout
20 Minute Intermediate/Advanced Workout
Even with all of the benefits of exercise, I understand that barriers come up. In my many years of training I have heard everything: “I’ve never exercised before,” “My knees and feet hurt too much,” or “I don’t have time”. The best thing you can do is tailor your exercise specifically to you. The caregiver has a journey all their own, and it’s important to pick a regimen that makes sense for your personal journey. The right exercise program will help you feel better, sleep better, reduce stress, and enjoy life more.
This blog is part one of a series of self-care blogs written by Jennifer Miramontes. Stay tuned for parts two and three, and check out her website, Cancer Champion Fitness.