Exercising with Chronic Illness
Exercise is not something I have talked a lot about in previous posts. Because it's not something I have been doing. And it's not something I enjoy, or to be honest know that much about. But honestly it's time! The cardiologist cleared my heart and we are looking at my lungs. But recently a doctor that I love and respect very much reminded me that the shortness of breath and high heart rate I have been experiencing could be something as simple as deconditioning. So it's time for me to get back to exercising. And to make getting fit a priority. As I started researching how I should get back into the fitness world I thought others could use the information as well. So today I wanted to share a bit of information on what kind of exercise is good for those with chronic illness/pain and joint issues.
Before we get into any suggestions about exercise I wanted to remind you about a few things.
- Before beginning any exercise program you should ALWAYS contact your physician to get the okay.
- You should always start with low impact and go slow! You can increase your impact and intensity slowly.
- Always move at your own pace and never try to keep up with someone you are with or with a class.
- Lastly if your pain level increases by more than 2 points from where it was at the start of the exercise you should stop &/or modify that specific exercise to try to ensure that you don't cause a flare.
It is recommend that everyone do a combination of stretching exercises, strengthening exercises and cardiovascular exercises! Stretching will help to increase flexibility, loosen any tight or stiff muscles, as well as improve range of motion. Everyone should be doing some stretching EVERYDAY!! Strengthening will help to build up muscle strength. And cardiovascular exercise has a plethora of healing benefits. Now let's look at what specific cardiovascular or aerobic exercises you could be doing.
1. Walking - is an excellent form of light aerobic exercise. It helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, helps rebuild stamina, boosts energy, and will reduce stiffness and pain. Other options of low impact aerobic exercises would be riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical.
2. Yoga - Practice the most gentle kind of yoga you can, preferably the Hatha form of yoga. This kind of yoga is a combination of postures, breathing, and meditation that will reduce the physical and physiological symptoms of pain. A study that was published in the Journal of Pain states that participants reported significantly less pain when doing yoga. Yoga will also help to build endurance and energy while improving sleep and concentration.
3. Tai Chi - The benefits seen with tai chi are very similar to those seen in those who do yoga. Tai Chi is a very low impact kind of exercise where the participants slowly, gradually and gracefully preform a series of movements. Studies show that this form of exercise may even be better to relieve fibromyalgia pain than yoga!
4. Swimming & Water Aerobics - Any exercise in the water is good for people with chronic pain or joint issues. It is also an excellent alternative to walking for those with mobility issues. Being in the water provides a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that helps to keep you moving without putting added stress on joints and muscles.
The last point I want to make applies to all people. Not just those who are chronically ill. It is something I have struggled with love you whole life not just the last six years since I've been diagnosed. I don't know about all of you but if I don't have an accountability partner I am less likely to stay accountable and stay on track. If I have someone who is checking in on me a few times a week saying hey how is your diet, and how is your exercise routine going? I am more likely to actually stay on top of those things. So I strongly recommend finding someone in your life to be that person for you. So make sure you find someone to help you stay on track.
We took a brief look at some exercises that are good for those who have chronic pain or have joint issues. So maybe this will give you an idea of where you could start. I did not cover stretching directly because most people have a basic idea of how to stretch. I also didn't cover strength training, because it can be very complicated and vary dramatically from one person to the next. However, there are articles for reference on both below. If you do plan on starting a new exercise plan please let me know what you plan on doing. I know for me having an accountability partner works best for me. If I don't have someone to keep me accountable then I won't stick to my plan as well as I do with that partner. So that is also something for you to keep in mind. If I can help you in any way please let me know. I would be very happy to help!!! I hope this helps some of you. Below are some articles for references on exercise with chronic illness for you.