We have all been there. The time comes when we get out of our exercise routine for a few days, and it is pretty tough to get back into it. Our bodies feel sluggish and minds seem a bit foggy. Any thoughts of hopping on the bike, hitting the gym or going out for a jog simply are not appealing. The longer our sedentary lifestyle continues, the more difficult it is to get back “in the mood”. This impacts more than our waistline too. It can have a profound effect on our mood.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle is known to contribute to depression. This is as true for the elderly as it is for younger generations. In the home care community, it impacts seniors and their family caregivers equally. Seniors may have a difficult time moving because of physical limitations. Their family members might find it challenging to get to the gym or even follow an exercise video when they know someone else needs care and attention.
Let us now examine what causes this. It turns out, hormones play an important role. Serotonin is a happy hormone released in the brain. It helps us to maintain mood balance which provides us with positive feelings and motivation. When depression hits, the release of serotonin is limited. This makes it more difficult to get up off the couch and participate in activity. The more sitting that occurs, the tighter the grip depression has on the mind and body. A vicious cycle soon begins.
Whether depression leads to lack of activity or lack of activity causes depression, it is important to break the cycle. Staying inactive not only negatively impacts mental health, but it can harm your physical health too. Lack of exercise is linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even dementia. When seniors suffer from any of these conditions, it can make them worse. For family caregivers who are otherwise healthy, it can cause serious deteriorations in physical health that make it difficult or impossible to continue acting as a reliable and capable caregiver.
So, how do you break the cycle when you do not feel motivated to exercise? It starts with baby steps.
Stand up More Often
First, get on your feet more during the day if you are able to. Stand up for as many activities as possible. Do this while you are on the phone, applying makeup, brushing your teeth or even reading a book or watching television. Standing is better for your physical and mental health than sitting. If you cannot stand, get out of bed and sit. Just as standing is better than sitting, sitting is better than lying down.
Music as Motivation
Next, try using some music to motivate you. Turn off the television, and turn on a radio instead. Put on some music that makes you want to tap your feet. Clap along to the beat, tap along to the beat, wiggle your hips or swing your arms and shoulders. Even if you cannot stand up, you can exercise. If you can stand, get up and dance around the room. Should you feel unstable and need help, ask a family member or professional caregiver to lend you an arm.
Get Out and Get Social
If you are still not feeling like moving, try accepting a social invite instead. Staying home by yourself is the worst thing you can do if you are depressed. Getting out in the community is a great way to feel better and free a stuck mind. If you are not able to get out, ask a friend to come visit. It might take time for this to feel comfortable, but eventually, creating and maintaining social ties can help you feel less depressed.
Staying healthy both mentally and physically is always important. One of the best ways to do that is by staying active and working to prevent depression. Frail seniors are encouraged to do as much as they safely can. If you are a family caregiver, make arrangements for respite care so you have time for yourself for exercise and social engagements. If you are in need of assistance, Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley is always here to help. Call us anytime with questions or to schedule a free, no obligation evaluation.
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