When Taking Care of a parent, how can I fit exercise into my schedule?

Portrait of senior African American man smiling

One of the questions I received was

When taking care of a parent, how can I fit exercise into my schedule?
Here is my answer.

The 21st century is supposed to be easy due to all the fancy gadgets at our fingertips. We have apps to help with portion control and keeping us fit. Some will show us a map of our walk or how fast and far we ran.
But I don’t know of an app to help us find time to exercise while taking care of our parents. And I am speaking from experience. I know, too, from my friends and relatives that, though we haven’t been taught how to do it, almost each and every one of us will someday experience the caretaking part of a relationship with our parents.

My mother lived in New York and I had to travel to and from at least once each month. Sometimes it was more than that, and it put a strain on my health. My hair was falling out and my feet were hurting 24/7. I could barely walk. If you had looked at me, you would have thought I was ninety years of age. And, to add to the list, I became prone to injuries.

One day a friend told me I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was a light bulb moment for me. I felt my body go limp, as if the weight was being released. I had to get my life back.

Taking care of a parent or loved one while working full time can be a mental, emotional, and physical drain. You do not feel like taking care of yourself. But you must.
Look at your schedule book and write in your exercise time. (I find, if I write down an exercise date with a friend, even if they do not know about it, I am more likely to keep that time open for myself and stick to it.)

Look for 10 minutes out of your day to walk or exercise in some other way. That’s right—just 10 minutes. What can you do in 10 minutes? March in place . . . abdominal exercises . . . squats . . . weights . . . stretching. Doing 10 minutes of something is better than nothing.
If you are living with your parents, see if there is an Adult Day Care center where they can go during the day, maybe from 10 AM to 2 PM, and, during that time, get those 10 minutes in. Or enlist one of your siblings to help you. While they watch mom and dad, you can go for a walk. Walking is a great stress releaser.

Some community centers have senior exercise programs. Why not register your mom or dad and you can go work out with them? And, if they cannot stand up and exercise, there are plenty of chair aerobic, strength training, and yoga videos you can play while you’re exercising along with them.

It is important to get your exercise so you can build your stamina and be alert for them and for you. But don’t beat yourself up about not getting in one hour or more of exercise. Stay focused on the 10 minutes. Then try to do 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon and 10 minutes in the evening. Suddenly, you’re putting in 30 minutes a day.

Believe it or not, meditation is a form of mental exercise that can help you physically. Joyce Meyer has said, “Where the mind goes, the body follows,” and I am a true believer. Having a positive mind-set can combat fatigue. And, when your mind is in a positive state, nothing can stand in your way.
For example, stare at a candle or your favorite picture for at least one minute every day, gradually increasing it to two minutes and then five. Sitting quietly without distraction can strengthen your brain cells and encourage mental clarity, and that can make a difference in your day.

Take time out for yourself—whether it is spent exercising, walking, or in meditation—and you will sleep better and have the energy to take care of yourself and your parents.

When we have a lot on our plates, then our minds, bodies and souls shut down, but I want to encourage you to take care of yourself first. My body, mind, and spirit shut down. My immune system was compromised and I was prone to injuries. I had to take my life back.

I did it. You can, too. So, find time for yourself, and don’t hesitate to enlist your siblings or church members or friends to help you. Don’t let pride keep you down. Delegate, and then get off that couch and exercise.

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