Physical Activity & Wellness
The Importance of Caregiver and Client Physical Activity on Mental Wellbeing
It’s not surprising that most individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic are experiencing various types and severities of mental strain. Healthcare workers may be experiencing more strain than most due to their additional responsibility for the wellbeing of others. Paid family caregivers providing consumer directed services are no exception to this stress.
The social distancing guidelines may be taking a toll on clients receiving consumer directed services, as these individuals may have had a more difficult time getting out before the pandemic began. It has been found that social isolation of elderly and disabled individuals is correlated to increased mental health disparities in these populations.
Emerest appreciates CDS caregivers and the exceptional work they do each day. We commend them for the compassionate care they provide to Medicaid participants, and recognize the increased difficulties the global pandemic introduced into their lives.
One of the best ways to boost mental health for both those providing and receiving care is through some form of physical activity. Although gyms are closed and normal outdoor activities are not being encouraged, there are still ways to stay active that don’t involve putting anyone at risk.
Many studies have found that moderate to high intensity exercise boost both mood and mental health. While that level of strain is not always feasible, light physical activity has also been identified to be highly influential on individuals’ mental wellbeing. Low-stress exercises may also reduce depressive symptoms.
Although it is difficult to regularly perform normal physical activities, there are still many engaging exercises for both CDS care providers and their clients to do to promote mental wellbeing!
- Seeing the Neighborhood Sights
One of the easiest ways to avoid a completely sedentary lifestyle during this time is through daily walks. Walking is a low-intensity activity that will help get you and your client moving. It also requires no equipment or specific setting, so even a stroll across the parking lot can give you a boost!
If you’re able to, a socially distanced walk outdoors would be a perfect way to help your client get some light exercise in. This can be done on a nearby walking path, a quiet sidewalk or side street, or just around the building in which your client resides.
When an outdoor option isn’t accessible, walking inside is also effective and likely a cooler option. Taking a walk through the apartment hallway, or tour of the interior of your home is enough to get the legs moving and positive benefits flowing.
For you, the caregiver, getting some light activity in on your own is also imperative for your own health. Daily walks or runs in a socially distanced area near you or using an at-home exercise machine for a few minutes a day will yield many positive benefits over time.
- Spend Time in the Great Outdoors
Beyond walking, many other outdoor activities can be beneficial for both you and your client. It is important to note that the feasibility of these outdoor activities vary from situation to situation as they’re dependent upon what clients enjoy, what they’re able to do, and the level of support you’re able to provide during these sessions.
A few general activities that either you or the CDS recipient can participate in include gardening, exterior design, or fishing. Gardening is low-impact, and it is incredibly rewarding to watch plants grow and mature over time. Fishing is easily socially distanced, and typically done in a serene environment that can facilitate emotional decompression. The activity itself is not as important as much as how it makes you feel afterwards.
- Get Creative!
Remember, this list of potential activities is just scraping the surface of possibilities! You are encouraged to brainstorm new ideas for both of you to stay active. Safe physical activity during COVID-19 is imperative for everyone’s mental health.
 Facing mental health fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/facing-mental-health-fallout-from-the-coronavirus-pandemic
 Callow, D. D., Arnold-Nedimala, N. A., Jordan, L. S., Pena, G. S., Won, J., Woodard, J. L., & Smith, J. C. (2020). The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Activity in Older Adults Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2020.06.024
 Biddle, S. (2016). Physical activity and mental health: Evidence is growing. World Psychiatry, 15(2), 176–177. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20331