Mindful movements help informal caregivers

By Krista Baliko Posted: July 4, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Andi Martin, PhD candidate in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Heath Studies, has designed a yoga/tai chi practice to help improve the health of informal caregivers.
Andi Martin, PhD candidate in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Heath Studies, has designed a yoga/tai chi practice to help improve the health of informal caregivers. U of R Photography

Nearly half of Canadians 15 years of age and older have taken care of loved ones who are ill or unable to care for themselves.

While many will be thrust into the role of informal caregiver, this group rarely takes care of itself, says Andi Martin, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina.

“Informal caregivers are a vital resource to the Canadian health care system,” says Martin. “Yet they tend to view self-care as a selfish act.”

She says providing care to others, at the expense of caring for oneself, can lead to physical and mental health problems, social isolation, sleep disorders, burnout and even premature death.

To help ease the negative consequences informal caregivers suffer from, Martin has designed a yoga/tai chi program to be done 150 minutes a week for 12 weeks, then assessed physical health outcomes and quality of life.

The mind-body practice she developed had a striking impact: some participants reported improved sleep, increased energy, less time away from work and improved relationships with care recipients.

Along with improving the lives of individual caregivers, this type of program could have significant economic benefits; it’s estimated that informal caregivers contribute more than $26 billion annually to the Canadian health care system.

To discover more about the impact of the University of Regina’s health research check out our spring/summer 2017 issue of Discourse – the University’s research magazine.

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