Do these exercises that mimic caregiving tasks so that you can be the strongest caregiver possible with the lowest injury risk.
A study by Amy Darragh, PhD, an occupational therapist at the Ohio State’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, revealed that out of the group of caregivers she investigated, the following tasks come with the highest degree of difficulty to carry out:
Transferring, toileting, bathing, staircase navigation and helping the patient up from a fall.
Perhaps the best way to prevent injuries from caregiving tasks is to become proficient and strong at exercises that mimic these movements.
I’ve had plenty of experience caregiving. This includes helping my 185-pound father out of a chair (he has had three total knee replacements, three back surgeries, a hip replacement and has peripheral neuropathy) and lowering my 135-pound mother to the floor whenever she began passing out during a mysterious medical condition that caused blackouts.
But I’m also a fitness expert, having worked as a personal trainer at a health club and authored hundreds of articles for fitness magazines.
Caregiving Tasks and Their Exercise Counterparts
In addition, for any kind of heavy lifting, hoisting, pushing and pulling (non-overhead) = the tire flip, sled pull, sled push, deadlift and bench press.
A strong, durable core (low back and abdominal region) is essential for efficient caregiving operations and minimizing injury.
The following exercises will create a strong core: deadlift, squat, pushup, chin-up/pull-up, kettlebell swing, standing overhead press, to name a few.
Though beginners or “weak” people cannot perform a pushup, chin-up or pull-up, they sure as heck CAN perform all the other exercises listed here.
No matter how “out of shape” you think you are, you can flip a tire. It just has to be light enough. This means a small tire.
Whether you’ve never exercised before, are overweight or over age 50, you can learn to deadlift and squat properly.
Anyone can bench press, leg press and overhead press. Anyone can swing a kettlebell and push or pull a sled.
As you become stronger with these exercises, add resistance. You’ll know when it’s time to attempt a chin-up, pull-up or pushup, though the ability to do chin-ups and pull-ups is not mandatory.
However, if you can’t perform pushups for repetitions, this indicates that your core and upper body are weak: Work more fervently on your bench press.
If you’ve been doing sled pushes for a while, you’ll have no problems pushing someone in a wheelchair, even up inclines.
Wheelchairs that are designed for temporary transport (such as ones provided at airports and hotels) aren’t nearly as caregiver-friendly as “permanent” wheelchairs.
If you don’t have access to a tire or sled equipment, you can still work on the other exercises. All gyms have barbells and many gyms have kettlebells.
Requirements for Making the Exercises that Mimic Caregiving Tasks Reduce Injury
#1. Start out light so that you can master form. Form must be perfect. This mastery of form will carry over to actual caregiving tasks, thereby reducing injury.
#2. Once you have form down, focus on increasing the weight over time (progressive resistance) to build a strong core and strong connective tissue; this will reduce injury.
#3. Each workout session should not exceed one hour; never work the same muscle group two days in a row.
#4. Once you have form down and base conditioning, set the resistance so that five repetitions with good form are possible, but more than 10 are impossible.
This is a general rule. But some exercises are safer than others to do up to 20-rep maximums, such as the leg press and kettlebell swing. I can write a book on all of this, but this article is to serve as a general primer.
When you do caregiving tasks, your whole body gets involved. This is why the exercises listed here are the ones you should get strong at. They truly mimic the caregiver’s duties, and becoming proficient at them will reduce injury risk.