Avoid Caregiver Burnout by Exercising Just Three Times a Week

Learn how regular exercise could be the key to caregiver health.

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- Posted on Nov 2, 2018

Woman stretching in exercise clothes

A new study found that exercising just three times a week could help caregivers reduce stress and possibly expand their lifespan.

The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, followed 68 caregivers for patients with dementia. The researchers recorded the results of those who tried to exercise for 120 minutes a week (broken into 40-minute increments per day).

At the end of six months, the participants had lowered their perceived stress and lengthened their telomeres—the caps at the end of chromosomes that contain important DNA information. Aging and disease deteriorate telomeres, which can lead to heart disease and other ailments. Scientists are just beginning to understand the importance of telomeres, but initial research shows that activities that lengthen them could be crucial for longevity.

What does this mean for caregivers?

Numerous studies have demonstrated that caregivers have higher mortality rates than non-caregivers and struggle with stress and mental health problems. One study, published in JAMA, found that caregivers had 63% higher mortality rates than a control group. The study also found that caregivers without significant stress had similar mortality rates to non-caregivers. Activities that manage stress—such as exercise—are crucial to closing this stress and mortality gap.

"What caregivers need is support for healthy behaviours, because that is one of the first things to drop when you become a family caregiver," Eli Puterman, a professor in the University of British Columbia's school of kinesiology and lead author of the study, told Science Daily. "The time to take care of yourself just goes out the window."

With approximately 43.5 million caregivers in the U.S., caregiver health is a national issue.

The Bottom Line

The good news is that this research shows extensive, rigorous exercise is not necessary for caregiver health. All that’s needed is consistent movement at least three times a week.

How are you working exercise into your caregiving routine?

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