Love It or Hate It, Exercise Is Important for Caregivers

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by Jaime Christmas |

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caregiver break | FAP News Today | Main graphic for the column

My alarm goes off at 5:30 every morning, and I mute it as quickly as possible to avoid waking my husband, Aubrey (if he’s even in bed, that is, as he suffers from insomnia). I go for a run before sunrise and avoid the crowds, as very few people are in the park that early.

I exercise out of necessity, not enjoyment. I must maintain my fitness levels, because as a caregiver to a spouse with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, the last thing I want is to be out of shape and more prone to health issues.

Although I don’t enjoy it, I won’t give up on exercise. The perks extend beyond getting into shape and looking better.

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Studies have shown that working out has a positive impact on cognitive and mental health. It can even alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and combat the effects of stress, which is a big issue for caregivers given the heavy responsibilities we shoulder.

No matter how much I dread hearing that alarm every morning, I know I can’t go without my run. I’m a much nicer and happier person when I exercise. Without this regimen, all the adaptogen supplements in the world couldn’t ward off my anxiety and depression.

exercise | FAP News Today | Jaime snaps a photo of the sun rising over the water in New Zealand during one of her early-morning runs.

The sun rises over New Zealand’s Shelly Beach during one of columnist Jaime Christmas’ morning runs. (Photo by Jaime Christmas)

Even if you dislike exercise, if you’re a caregiver, I encourage you to embrace it and do what you can. (Of course, always consult your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.)

After Aubrey became unwell in late 2012, the stress of his unfolding health situation greatly affected my well-being. As a novice, I just trudged along.  But eventually, I paid the price for thinking I was strong enough to handle everything. The emotional toll had a domino effect, and before I knew it, I was knee-deep in mental anguish.

One day, a good friend invited me along for a morning run. Afterward, I had an epiphany upon realizing that the dark cloud that shrouded me had lifted. Since then, no matter the season or time of day, I have always incorporated some form of exercise into my daily schedule.

If you are struggling as a caregiver and need some help moving forward, consider working on your fitness. That doesn’t necessarily mean a strenuous, high-impact workout. A short walk around the block is a great start!

If like me, exercise isn’t in your vocabulary, start transitioning your thoughts from “I should exercise” to “I will exercise.” “Should” denotes a sense of obligation, whereas “will” involves intentionality and purpose.

There are countless ways to exercise. It doesn’t always involve huffing and puffing! Play your favorite tune and dance, walk short distances instead of driving, or take the stairs instead of the escalator.

In time, you may discover that you’re sleeping better, and feeling less stressed, more energetic, and healthier, both physically and mentally. More importantly, you may find that you’re in better shape, feel more upbeat, and are falling sick less frequently. All of these benefits better equip us to face the challenges of caregiving.

Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.


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