, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 91-100

Enhancing physical and psychological functioning in older family caregivers: The role of regular physical activity

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Although informal caregiving among older adults creates a range of physical and psychological burdens for the caregiver, little research has been directed at evaluating strategies for preserving caregivers’ physical functioning in addition to their psychological well-being. The purpose of the current research was to examine, through population-based survey sampling procedures, levels of physical activity and related health practices and preferences among a random sample of older family caregivers; evaluate, using an experimental design, the feasibility of initiating a four-month supervised home-based moderate-intensity physical activity regimen among older family caregivers; and explore the potential effects of physical activity on anger expression, caregiver burden, and related psychological outcomes in this population. The results suggest that: (a) physical inactivity is a prevalent risk factor among family caregivers that requires systematic attention; (b) a significant proportion of family caregivers of both sexes are interested in improving their physical activity levels, especially through programs that do not require ongoing attendance at a class or group; and (c) supervised home-based programs that focus on brisk walking and similar moderate-intensity physical activities appear to be both feasible and potentially beneficial in health (e.g. ambulatory blood pressure) as well as mental health (e.g. anger expression) areas.

Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by PHS grants #AG-00440 and #AG-12358 from the National Institute on Aging awarded to Dr. King.
We would like to thank David Ahn, Ph.D. for his help with data analysis.