Short On Time, Big On Results
Exercise Plans For The Busy Caregiver


As society gets more and more technical and connected, our days, like the globe itself, seems to shrink. Time is a precious luxury no one has enough of. While the demands of providing quality care are more than enough, add in those of family, home, school and more, and itís small wonder that exercise comes in last on the list of things to do, if it makes that list at all. 

While exercise may seem like a recreational pursuit-it needs to be a part of your life, like brushing your teeth or any other personal hygiene habit. The benefits of exercise go without saying. Exercise is especially vital for the caregiver; if youíre not feeling your best, you canít perform at your best. Preaching wonít do any good at this point.  We know we need to get exercise in, the question is simply how? Take a serious look at your schedule. See what you can devote to your health.

Many people tell me they donít have any time to exercise-yet they watch 2-3 hours of television per night!  Is it really a question of time-or is it a question of priorities? Below are some fitness programs for maximum results in minimum time:

15 minutes per day, three times per week

 With this type of commitment we donít have a minute to lose, we can only do the most important component of fitness: cardiovascular exercise. Choose an exercise that elevates your heart rate and allows you to sustain the elevated heart rate for 12 minutes or more. The movement should be full-body or multiple muscle exercise. Great examples include: walking, biking, running, swimming, inline skating and stair climbing.

While it may seem obvious, choose an activity you like, thus youíll be more likely to adhere to it. Too many people do what their friends are doing or what they saw at 2 am on an infomercial. They never learn to like the activity and consequently drop activity from their regimen altogether.  Spend a minute before the activity to gradually increase your heart rate; donít suddenly break into a run. At the end, spend a minute to slowly decrease your heart rate, slow down and do some light stretches. Repeat every other day. If your schedule is extremely tight, try to hit two days per week and either a Saturday or Sunday for your third session. Hopefully, youíll soon find more time.

25-30 minutes per day, three to four days per week.

With this schedule, we can do a bit more and focus on the resistance or muscle strengthening component of exercise. Start your regimen with the cardiovascular activity as described above, but add an additional 5 minutes.

For a quick, full-body workout do the following:

Push-ups: do as many as possible without straining or letting your back sway. Rest long enough to catch your breath then do another set. If you have difficulty doing more than 5, do them on your knees for the first few weeks. As your strength improves, move to the traditional form. This will work your back, chest, triceps and shoulders.

Wall-Squats: With your back against the wall and your feet about two feet out from the wall, shoulder-width apart, slowly slide down the wall as far as comfortable. The goal is to get the thighs parallel with the floor-do not go any lower. Inhale as you go down, exhale on the way up. Do 10, rest, then do 10 more. This movement is great for the entire lower body.

Crunches: These modified sit-ups are ideal for strengthening the abdominals and lower back. Lie on your back in the sit-up position with feet flat on the floor, a bend in the legs. Exhale as you simply curl-up and lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor. Squeeze the abs and hold this position for one second. Lower yourself and repeat 15 times, rest and do one more set of 15. You can place your arms either at your side or across the chest to make it slightly harder.  Repeat the above workout every other day.

45-60 minutes per day, 3-5 days per week

Now weíre getting somewhere. With this schedule, youíll get great results, and as fast as genetically possible!

Aim for 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Remember to work at a brisk pace to elevate that heart rate. For resistance training, start with the exercises above and letís add some more since time allows for more the targeting of more specific muscle groups.

Back Row: On a bench or chair, place the right knee and right hand on the bench/chair/bed and lean forward so your back is parallel to the floor. With one dumbbell in the left hand, pull the weight up into your chest. Keep the left elbow close to the body and pull it back high, above your side. Concentrate on squeezing the shoulder blades together.  Inhale as you lower the weight down towards the floor getting a good stretch. Repeat on each side. This exercise strengthens the back and improves posture.

Lateral Raise: Stand with arms at sides, palms facing body and holding weights. Simply raise arms out to sides until parallel with floor. Exhale as you go up, inhale back down. The movement is a great shoulder shaper!

Bicep Curl: Standing with weights and palms facing out, curl weights up towards shoulders. Keep elbows ďlockedĒ into side and exhale as you lift the weight up. Develops bicep muscle and also strengthens grip by developing forearms.

Tricep Kickback: This is great for firming up the back of the arm. Start with one dumbbell and assume the same position as in the back row. Bring the arm with the dumbbell up so that your elbow is right nest to the body. From this starting position, simply exhale as you extend the arm back, squeezing the back of the arm. Keep the elbow in tight. Inhale as you return to the starting position.

As you can see, even on the tightest of schedules, something can be done. The important thing is to do something and do it consistently. If you have more time then the examples above, youíre on easy street and can be quite flexible. One can also do some exercises one day and the remaining exercises the next. For safety however, only work the same muscle group every other day. In weight training, a day of rest will do you more good then harm.

Cardiovascular training can be done every day however.  It is also acceptable to do cardiovascular exercise in the morning and resistance training in the evening, or vice versa. This is known as a ďsplitĒ.  

There you have it. People who say they donít have time to exercise may be right-if youíre not exercising, you can be more stressed, have trouble sleeping, wake-up feeling tired and consequently not as efficient.  I guarantee, with the 20-30 minutes you invest in your health a few days per week, the rewards will come back ten-fold. When all is said and done, Iím confident you, like many others, will find exercise doesnít take time- it creates time.

Good luck and drop me a note if you have questions or specific challenges. You may also download a free chart on stretching at to help guide you on the journey to better health.

Sean Kenny is a certified fitness trainer and internationally published author/lecturer on health and fitness.  He can be reached at


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