The 30 Minute Strategy

By Family Caregiver Alliance

“What makes the biggest difference to your health? What has the biggest return on investment?”

These questions are posed by Dr. Mike Evans in a popular YouTube video he created, “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?” that over 2.4 million people have already watched.

In an engaging narrative, Dr. Evans quickly covers a number of studies and explains that research has found that this intervention has been found effective at addressing a wide variety of health issues, including knee arthritis, diabetes (coupled with other lifestyle changes), the risk of hip fractures, depression, anxiety, mortality, and overall quality of life.

What is the intervention?

We’ll give you a hint- This intervention is so popular that the cast of the West Wing reunited to discuss it recently in a mini-sketch “Walk & Talk- The West Wing Reunion” that highlights the intervention while also poking fun at the show’s trademark “walk and talk routine.”

The answer? It turns out that simply walking 30 minutes a day can pay enormous dividends in your health and quality of life.

So, how is this relevant to family caregivers?

Enter the Go4Life Campaign™, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

Through this campaign (Family Caregiver Alliance is a “Team Member”), the National Institute on Aging is reaching out to older adults to help them become physically active, whether it’s for the first time, returning to exercise after a break, or simply building more physical activity into a daily routine.

The Go4Life Campaign™ website features a number of excellent resources in English and Spanish that can be downloaded or ordered (for free) for individuals or organizations. And, the exercise examples are intended for people aged 50 or older to do in a variety of settings.

The resources include:

We’re biased, but we like the “Caregivers and Exercise—Take Time for Yourself” tip sheet.

In addition to the numerous studies on the health risks of being a caregiver, staff at FCA also know from speaking directly with caregivers that their own health is often placed on the back burner.

Exercise is not only good for your health (see the many ways here), but can also be a mini-break from caregiving. When you’re out on a walk, jog, or even a run, your mind can wander a little bit away from the tasks waiting for you at home. As the Mayo Clinic points out, physical activity tells your brain to increase the production of endorphins, which they call “your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters” and which is also referred to as the runner’s high.

One of the hardest parts about exercising is getting started. So, pick an easy target to begin with, for example, “I’ll walk for 30 minutes at least once this week.” As you become more comfortable with the routine, you can increase it. We’re including a few resources below that can be helpful to get started.

Resources:

Go4Life Campaign™ website

Why It’s Important for Older Adults to Exercise (Interview with Dr. Richard J. Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? (Dr. Mike Evans)

WebMD: “Losing Weight May Help Lower Cancer Risk” (May 1, 2012)

It’s Your Time: National Women’s Health Week- May 13-19th (Sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health)

Wall Street Journal: “Pitting Employees Against Each Other … for Health” (May 1, 2012)

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