SLEEP BETTER WITH EXERCISE
We know exercise is good for us. We’ve been told time and time again that it can help prevent weight gain and keep us healthy. But so many barriers exist to prevent us from exercising, especially if we are caregivers.
Time, Health, & Lack of Energy
As a caregiver, you may have less time than any of your friends, neighbors, coworkers, or family members. Each minute of your day may be carefully scheduled. You may find yourself with piles of bills to pay, people to call, prescriptions to pick up, and extra work at night and on the weekends.
You may have knee, hip, ankle, or other joint or bone conditions that prevent weigh-bearing exercises such as Aerobics or running. You may have other health conditions that prevent you from getting your heart rate up too quickly, or too high.
And, quite frankly, you may not have the energy to exercise. Any “spare time” you discover may best be spent taking a nap, cooking a nutritious meal, or even relaxing on the couch with a book. It seems counter-intuitive to spend precious energy on exercise.
Better Sleep, Better Time-Management
Did you know, however, that even walking one mile a day can help you sleep more soundly, and fall asleep faster? According to one study, regular exercise may promote relaxation and raise core body temperature in ways that are beneficial to initiating and maintaining sleep.1 The exercise need not be intense—the art of Tai chi, or slow, fluid movements (similar to Yoga, but less vigorous), has been shown to significantly improve the sleep of older adults.2
Studies have also shown that people who exercise are better at prioritizing and are more efficient at work. Dr. I-Min Lee, an associate professor of medicine at HarvardMedical School in Boston, said in an MSNBC article that exercise might help people do their jobs better, perhaps by improving mood or easing stress.
According to the American Heart Association, in their statement on exercise, active persons are more likely to function better, perform better with cognitive tasks, to handle stress better, and report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. The University of Michigan Health system has found similar benefits and states that some of the emotional benefits of exercise include:
While these benefits may not be publicized as much as the heart-health and weight-related benefits, obtaining better sleep, improving efficiency, and reducing stress may be among the most important benefits for caregivers!
A Little at a Time
The American Heart Association recommends that individuals perform moderately-intense exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. This recommendation is similar to those supported by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine.
The good thing is you can add up those 30 minutes over the course of one day. As a caregiver, you may never have an entire half hour all at once to devote to exercise. However, you might be able to find 10 minutes after lunch for a walk around the office, or 5 minutes in between TV commercials for some leg lifts. Even vacuuming and cleaning the house has benefits. See our article on “Hidden Fitness” for more suggestions on how to stay fit without a dedicated workout schedule.
You may feel too exhausted each day to even think about exercise, but you have to expend energy to get energy. Staying active and incorporating as much movement into your day as possible will help you stay healthy.
1Montgomery P, Dennis J. Physical exercise for sleep problems in adults aged 60+. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003404.
2Li F, et al. Tai chi and self-rated quality of sleep and daytime sleepiness in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc June 2004;52:892-900.