Aerobic Exercise Could Cut Stress, Boost Health in Family Caregivers

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Exercising at least three times a week for six months can reduce stress and slow signs of aging in people who provide care to adult family members, according to a small study conducted at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the University of California.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates there are more than 40 million unpaid caregivers of adults over 65 in the United States, and that number is expected to grow. Providing physical or emotional care to a family member who is ill or disabled can take a toll on the caregiver’s mental and physical health in many ways and can also have financial implications.

This study involved 68 inactive people caring for family members with Alzheimer's disease or dementia who reported high stress levels. The researchers divided the study participants in two groups: One group participated in 40 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times per week, and the other group didn’t change their activity level. In the group that exercised, 81 percent got at least 120 minutes of physical activity a week during the 6-month study period.

The caregivers who exercised showed improved cardiorespiratory fitness, had lower body mass indexes (BMIs), and reported less stress. According to the researchers, blood tests revealed longer telomeres (chromosome ends that shorten with age, indicating an increased risk for health problems like heart disease) in the group that exercised.

Sourced from: Psychoneuroendocrinology