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Ann Behav Med. 1997 Spring;19(2):91-100.

Enhancing physical and psychological functioning in older family caregivers: the role of regular physical activity.

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Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1583, USA.


Although informal caregiving among older adults creates a range of physical and psychological burdens for the caregiver, little research has been directed at evaluating strategies for preserving caregivers physical functioning in addition to their psychological well-being. The purpose of the current research was to examine, through population-based survey sampling procedures, levels of physical activity and related health practices and preferences among a random sample of older family caregivers; evaluate, using an experimental design, the feasibility of initiating a four-month supervised home-based moderate-intensity physical activity regimen among older family caregivers; and explore the potential effects of physical activity on anger expression, caregiver burden, and related psychological outcomes in this population. The results suggest that: (a) physical inactivity is a prevalent risk factor among family caregivers that requires systematic attention; (b) a significant proportion of family caregivers of both sexes are interested in improving their physical activity levels, especially through programs that do not require ongoing attendance at a class or group; and (c) supervised home-based programs that focus on brisk walking and similar moderate-intensity physical activities appear to be both feasible and potentially beneficial in health (e.g. ambulatory blood pressure) as well as mental health (e.g. anger expression) areas.

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