It’s no secret that as caregivers we’re typically not very good about taking care of ourselves. We get home after a long day, evening, or night at work, and then it’s time to shift gears and settle into our second job, taking care of things at home. By the time we actually have time for ourselves, we’re exhausted.
We know the benefits of getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. It helps:
- control your weight
- reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- reduce the risk myocardial infarction and stroke
- reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
- strengthen bone and muscle
- improve mental health and mood
- increase longevity.
But, just how do you fit exercise into an already busy, exhausting schedule? My brother, an exercise physiologist says, that there are plenty of 15-minute opportunities in a day; 96 to be exact, so there’s no reason why you can’t be intentional about reserving at least one or two of them for yourself. It seems pretty achievable when you look at it that way, doesn’t it?
Well it is achievable, and you don’t need an expensive gym membership to do it. Start by taking a 15-minute walk around your neighborhood. Ask a friend or family member to join you, or take the family dog for a walk. It’s a great way to relieve stress, reconnect with others, and get exercise at the same time. On your day off, increase the length of your walk by walking through a local park, around town, or along the beach. You’ll log in exercise time and gain some peace of mind.
To increase strength, endurance, and body tone, take another 15 minutes to practice yoga. You don’t need to venture away from home to establish a regular practice. All you need is a yoga mat and some floor space to get started. There are online videos and apps to guide you through your practice.
Yoga practice consists of different postures, referred to as asanas. During a practice session, you’ll use your breath to help guide you through the different postures, and you’ll focus on using core strength (referred to as mula bandha) to move energy through your body.
Before you get started, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different schools of yoga, so that you can choose the one that’s right for you. Some of the schools include:
- Asthtanga, a fast-paced practice, consists of a sequence of postures that provide a vigorous workout.
- Bikram, commonly referred to as “hot” yoga, consists of 26 consecutive postures that are performed in a room heated to about 100° F.
- Iyengar, a slow-paced practice, focuses on stillness and form with each posture.
- Jivamukti, a fast-paced practice similar to Asthtanga, incorporates meditation, chanting, and readings along with the postures.
- Kripalu, or gentle yoga, consists of postures designed to tone muscles, improve blood flow, and energize the mind.
- Kundalini, utilizes rapid breathing, chanting, and meditation to move through slow, deliberate movements.
I’ve been a walker for quite some time, but I only attended my first yoga session about two years ago. My daughter asked me to attend a “hot” yoga session that a friend was teaching. I had no idea what “hot” yoga was, but I thought why not support her friend and give it a try. I thought I’d be calmly sitting on a mat breathing and relaxing. Little did I know that I’d be working up a sweat trying to keep up with the instructor as she led us rapidly through a variety of postures.
I enjoyed the session but it wasn’t until my daughter gave me a gift certificate for a private yoga lesson that I became hooked. Now I’m a regular weekend attender at a local yoga studio where I practice Asthtanga yoga. During the week, I practice at home using an app. Since beginning yoga four months ago, I’ve been able to curb my anxiety, sleep at night, gain flexibility, and increase my core strength.
The beauty of both of these exercise options is that you can do them anytime and anywhere…wherever and whenever you can find those 15 minutes, 15 minutes where you can refocus and simply take care of you.
Collette Bishop Hendler, RN, MS, CIC, CCRN (Alumnus status)
Senior Clinical Editor
Health Learning, Research & Practice