When you’re caring for someone else, demands on your time and requests for attention never end. Days are a blur of work, household chores, caregiving, errands and family time. For caregivers, finding time for yourself is rare. When some valuable downtime does come along, hitting the gym often isn’t your first priority. Many people would rather take a nap, socialize with friends or just kick back and relax. Instead of struggling to fit in exercise with other vital kinds of self-care, try to find a way to incorporate physical fitness into the activities you already engage in each day. Housework is an excellent example that can easily be transformed into a workout.
New York fitness expert and personal trainer Sara Haley shares her tips on how to squeeze in daily exercise at home while tidying up. “The key to a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a rigorous exercise routine,” Haley says. “It’s the regular balance of cardio, strength and endurance training that produces the most long-lasting and noticeable results. But you don’t have to go to the gym to get results. You can get fit without leaving the house.”
Make Cleaning Count
The stretching, lifting and sheer physical work involved in mopping floors, scrubbing tubs and other housework can really get your heart beating. Caregivers often have to see to household chores more frequently, whether an aging loved one is living with them or they have taken on the responsibility of cleaning their loved one’s home. Constantly cleaning can be a drag, but since you have to do it anyway, you might as well make it count. Put on your sneakers, play some of your favorite music and pick up the pace.
Step It Up on Your Stairs
“Stair-climbing workouts are all the rage right now,” Haley notes. If you live in a multi-level home, don’t run up and down your stairs all day for nothing. Make each trip to a different floor count by picking up the pace, slowly taking steps two at a time, like deep lunges, or even taking the stairs sideways to work different muscles as you head upstairs. “It’s best not to rush or get too fancy when heading down the stairs, though, as this can be dangerous,” advises Haley. Instead, do a few squats or push-ups once you get to a landing or the bottom of the staircase. Just remember to keep your shoes on for extra traction and stability, and use the railing for support as needed.
Sculpt and Fold
Dirty laundry abounds for many hands-on caregivers, especially for those whose loved ones are incontinent. You can easily turn this chore into a full body workout. “Tone your arms by keeping them raised at a 90° angle in front of you as you carry the laundry basket from room to room,” Haley suggests, “and work your legs with squats, lunges and calf raises as you fold clean clothes and fresh linens.”
A True Floor Workout
Cleaning your floors involves a few different methods, each of which exercises different muscle groups. Sweeping and mopping involve twisting movements that work your arms and core. Just make a point of switching sides during these activities to work them evenly.
Vacuuming also works your abs and arms, but it can be adapted to work your lower body as well. While vacuuming, do alternating split lunges every few minutes. Lunge forward with one leg to work the thigh and gluteus muscles. “Be sure to keep your back straight and your head facing forward, and don’t let your knees go out beyond your toes,” explains Haley. “You want your knee to be at a stable, 90° angle at the deepest part of your lunges to avoid injury.” Step back to a standing position and then repeat with the other side.
Burn as You Bite
Proper nutrition is an important part of any exercise regimen, but we all have our vices. Snacking is a source of comfort for many caregivers, but as with any indulgence, moderation is key. Healthier options like fresh fruit and vegetables are best, but when that chocolate or chip craving hits, you can help keep it in line by holding a wall squat as you snack. “Your buns will begin to burn almost immediately, and binging will suddenly seem less appealing,” Haley assures.
Chores are an inescapable part of life and caregiving, so make the most of these menial tasks to benefit your heart, achieve a healthy weight, kickstart your metabolism and improve your balance, strength, and mobility.