An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
Henry David Thoreau
This is the first in a series of posts on ways to keep the loved ones you care for healthy, and ways to keep yourself, the caregiver, healthy. Each post will provide information on a topic and links related to the topic. I decided to start with walking because it's something I love and walking is also one of the best ways for people of all ages to stay healthy. Below are some great things about walking.
- Walking can be done just about anywhere
- Walking doesn't take any special equipment or training
- Walking helps control weight, reduces blood pressure, improves heart and lung function
- Walking improves memory
- Walking encourages safe communities
- Walking reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
Don't take my word for it though. There are many articles online, and printed books and articles, that reinforce this message. The links below were several I found and liked.
Research shows that there is something about walking outdoors that makes walking more beneficial. I think it's all the fresh air and the joy of feeling the earth under your feet. Whatever it is, this should be your first choice, if weather allows. Outdoors can be anywhere from a stroll down the sidewalk in front of your parent's house to walks in a nearby park or even a stroll on the beach. Anywhere that isn't inside a building and that's safe, will do. Of course, sometimes the weather isn't suitable to outdoor walking, but when it is seize the moment! Below are links to more information on the importance of green walking.
What if your aging parent/spouse is afraid to go outside?
Today, I phoned my mother to wish her a happy Mother's Day. She wasn't in a good mood. I didn't discover why until my dad came in and began to complain loudly about the fact that Mom didn't come outside while he was putting in the annuals that he plants in the front yard every summer. "You know I'm not able to help," my mom whined. My dad didn't expect her to physically help, just to sit in a chair and watch and offer advice from time-to-time. "Well," my mom answered firmly, "you know I'm in pain," as if that settled the matter. Sadly, that's been how things have been for the past several years. Mom is very resistant to going outside to walk because she says she's in pain. She'll walk inside the house, doing "laps" in a circuit between the living room and dining room. The truth is, she's doesn't feel safe outside. This fear of going outside isn't completely rational, even though she's fallen before. For one thing, she wouldn't be alone: her strong and capable caregiver and my father would go with her. For another thing, she is just as likely to fall in the house as she is outside. Sadly, these facts aren't enough to persuade her. She's entrenched in her determination not to go for walks outside. Many other elderly people are in a similar situation, suffering from agoraphobia related to aging. (above: Men out for a walk, photo: Heloise Lanteaume, flickr creative commons)
I hope your parent(s) are easier to motivate. To motivate yourself, take a look at the video clip below about a wonderful Health Walking program in England. Every community should have a program like this!