Tuesday, January 24, 2012

exercise, fitness, caregiving for Multiple Sclerosis

Across the years of caregiving, I’d guestimate I’ve pushed Patti’s wheelchairs at least 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers).

Multiple Sclerosis caregiving is physical caregiving. Sure the pushing might sound dramatic but the heavy lifting is incalculable beginning with the first time I helped Patti off the floor after a fall to the non-ambulatory stage and one person unassisted transfers.

Not only have I had hernia surgery but aches and pains so common I joked that Bengay was eau de cologne for caregivers.  A ‘back brace support weight lifting belt’ and/or large pain relieving patches were too often simply part of getting dressed.

That is until a year and a half ago when I first discovered Planet Fitness, “Caregivingly Yours: are you fit to care / exercise

Exercise recommendations for someone caring for a loved one are no different than for anyone else. 30 to 40 minutes of moderately intense exercise three or more times a week.”
“Caregivers responsible for lifting loved one’s in and out of bed or chairs require a strong core.”

Hey! 90% of the time I’ve been a caregiver I viewed exercise as some hobby for the spandex clad bourgeoisie - some of us just learn slower.

Using the Planet Fitness 30 Minute circuit workout (a series of stations with lever-and-pulley machines for each major muscle group) I’ve not only been able to strengthen the specific muscles used to transfer and lift Patti but build better muscle harmony and no longer need the ointments and braces.

To train the ‘pushing engine’ it takes aerobic/cardio exercise and their variety of choices and bells and whistles is most appealing. When the same thing gets boring, I lose interest. These days I start with one mile on a treadmill with maximum incline to best replicate pushing a wheelchair up a grade and another mile on an elliptical or bike for cardio endurance.

As sweat stains your shirt you only need ask yourself - how many people do you know who will step in to push the person you care for up the hills and across the years?

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. Patrick - so true about the need for a strong core. Caregiving work is physical work. Glad that Planet Fitness has insight into that.

    Your post reminded me of a friend who used to love pushing Skip when she still used a manual chair. She wanted the extra exercise that came with the pushing!

    1. Cranky, feel free to pass this along to your friend. Volunteers are always welcomed. :) Patti, too, had some electric scooter years however MS visual and cognitive impairment symptoms quickly made that 'unsafe at any speed'.

  2. Long time ago on another planet in another life I used to be able to push wheelchairs. We took my grandparents to Sea World (or was it Six Flas of Texas?) for the afternoon/evening. Determined to have fun, we did "wheelies" and "dances" with those dang WC's. Man...they are heavy!

    I'll never forget how hard my grandparents laughed - especially my grandmother. "Sherry, you're going to dump me into the fountain, the bush, the whatever..." and of course I didn't. We were going FAST.

    I don't know how anyone deals with WC's on a daily basis. They are HEAVY. My dad and grandmother each had one at the same time and ..... trying to get two in the SUV (nevermind THEM) was quite something.


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