Physical activity for health and wellbeing in the caring role
Physical activity for health and wellbeing in the caring role

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4.1 Martin’s story

In this section you will consider the case study of Martin, co-author of this course, and hear about his experiences of being a carer. Martin’s story – as a lifelong exerciser, sport science and public health graduate and qualified Physical Education (PE) teacher – offers a unique opportunity to understand a carer’s relationship with physical activity.

Activity 6

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes.

Listen to Audio 3 in which Martin discusses how his relationship with physical activity changed once he became a carer to his mum. Does Martin’s experience resonate with you?

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Discussion

You will have heard Martin describing how physical activity was a significant part of his life prior to his caring role. He considered his relationship with physical activity a positive one and chose a career in the field, in addition to taking part in sport and exercise in his leisure time. He reflected on a noteworthy shift in his priorities following his mum’s stroke, when his relationship with physical activity became secondary to his caring role.

If you are a carer, or if you reflected on carers that you know, you might have seen how your (or their) priorities changed upon being a carer. This might be with respect to physical activity and/or other areas of the carer’s life.

Now listen to Audio 4. What were the main barriers that Martin faced that impacted on his relationship with physical activity?

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Discussion

The main barriers Martin faced to being physically active were:

  • Shifting of priorities – away from himself and fully focused on his mum.
  • Lack of motivation and not having the right mindset.
  • Levels of fatigue and lack of time.

You might recognise these barriers from Activity 4 when you examined research by Horne et al. (2021) and considered your own relationship with physical activity.

Now listen to Audio 5. What advice does Martin give to carers looking to become more physically active?

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Discussion

Martin acknowledged that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and that the demands on carers, and so their ability to be physically active, would be dependent on the demands of their care recipient. Despite these known challenges, Martin urged carers to listen to their bodies and to champion their own health and wellbeing. He encouraged carers to seek friends and family, or to find the monies, to support them to take respite care so that they could be active on a regular basis. When choosing an activity, Martin emphasised the need to find one that was enjoyable for the carers, and if possible to return to a previously enjoyed activity. He listed walking, swimming, cycling and gardening as suggestions.

Martin was able to be active as respite from his caring role, but also with his mum which she enjoyed. With this in mind, the next two sections look at these two options for carers: first using physical activity as respite and secondly being active with their care recipient.

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