Caring is stressful, and even mild stress over the long term, affects your physical and mental health. It is very important that you look after your physical and mental health when supporting a person with dementia.
If your health breaks down, it can mean you are no longer able to support your person. Taking action now to maintain or improve your health will help you both to move forward, positively.
Stay physically healthy – exercise well
Make sure you do physical activity every day. It is important and becomes more important as we get older. Physical activity can help you stay active – that “use it or lose it” idea is quite true!
Physical activity helps your health in many ways, including:
- reducing high blood pressure,
- reduce your risk of falls,
- managing excess weight,
- improve your sleep, and
- improve your mood.
Research has shown that exercise can maintain or improve memory and thinking and help maintain or improve how you cope with daily life.
How much exercise should I do?
Australian physical activity guidelines recommend that adults 65 years or over should do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Moderate intensity physical activity means you’re exercising hard enough to raise your heart rate and start to perspire.
What if I don’t exercise regularly?
- If you don’t exercise regularly, talk with your GP about starting exercising. Your GP may suggest consulting a physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist for a program if you have existing health conditions.
- If you are just starting out, work up to the recommended 30 minutes gradually. For example, if you can’t do 30 minutes walking, start with a time you can realistically achieve, say 5 or 10 minutes once or twice a day. After 2 weeks or once you start feeling comfortable, increase the time by 5 or 10 minutes. As your fitness improves, start to add in steps, rises or small hills.
Incorporating exercise into daily life
Starting exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to a gym! You can incorporate a few exercises into everyday activities. An example is ‘kettle exercises’. These are simple exercises designed to improve your strength and balance while you wait for the kettle to boil. Associating an exercise with another activity you do every day means you will remember to do them. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist can suggest ways to incorporate exercise into your usual daily activities.
Exercise can be a time you set aside just for you, or it can be a time to socialise with friends or neighbours. Many councils have exercise groups specifically designed for older people and The Heart Foundation has an Australia-wide program of walking groups you can join.
The Australian exercise guidelines also suggest that a variety of exercises is best. We talk about different types of exercises in the next page.
Exercise every day
Start exercising or increase the exercise you do. Try aerobic exercise and strength training.
If you prefer not to exercise on your own, join an exercise group or find an exercise buddy.