10 Ways To Keep Exercising With A Chronic Illness
Exercise is important for all of us to help keep our body strong and fit, boost our mood and maintain an ideal weight. For those with a chronic illness, the benefits can be even more meaningful in terms of helping manage symptoms, boosting energy to complete daily living activities and improving your overall quality of life.
“Initially I dealt with some expected stiffness and achy joints but I noticed after the first few weeks these started to ease. I usually feel good after working out now and as a bonus I’ve lost about 7 pounds,” writes Peter Waite, the founder of HealingWell.com. “I’m also sleeping better, getting more restful and restorative sleep. I’ve discovered a lot of mental benefits too. I am more alert during the day. I also feel more confident and in control of my health.”
However, chronic illness means there may be times when symptoms flare up and working out simply isn’t realistic. There may be times when you simply don’t feel like exercising. A period of non-activity lead some people to abandon their workout plans entirely, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle that is bound to cause health problems later.
Here are 10 ways to overcome the barriers to physical activity and do everything you can to improve your health and fitness.
Talk with your doctor: Your doctor will likely be able to offer advice and guidance on what types of exercise you can safely perform, as well as what should be avoided. They can also provide feedback on a level of intensity that’s safe for you, as well as how long your exercise sessions should be and how many times per week.
Look at your medicines: Some medicines are prohibitive to exercise because they cause lightheadedness or other problematic symptoms. Ask your doctor whether your medications are conducive to an exercise program and look for alternative solutions if they aren’t.
Get checked out: If you’re new to working out or returning after a lengthy absence, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get a medical exam before starting any new program. A stress test should be conducted before launching into an aerobic program. If you notice any signs of injury or lingering pain after starting an exercise program, have it looked at by your health care practitioner to make sure you don’t need to take any time off.
Start with mild exercises: If your chronic illness is severe, you should begin with exercises that are milder than aerobics. Examples include leisurely walking, gentle stretching or light jumping on a mini-trampoline. Mild strengthening exercises like lifting a one-pound dumbbell are also acceptable.
Pick exercises that won’t cause flare-ups: If you have asthma, choose activities that involve short bursts of energy like tennis or basketball. Chronic low back pain means you should for low-impact aerobic workouts like walking or swimming.
Adapt: Your condition also doesn’t mean you need to abandon exercise you once loved. For example, you can still perform yoga in a chair and receive all of the same benefits of improved flexibility, increased strength and reduced stress.
Take a class: Your local rec center or YMCA will often have senior exercise classes or similarly mild exercise groups. This can also be helpful because the instructor can correct any bad form that may lead to injury. Be sure to let them about any limitations you may have before the class begins.
Have back-up plans: If you’re sensitive to heat or cold, make it so that you can exercise indoors. If you planned to run outside and it’s raining, have an alternative exercise class or a workout DVD ready to go just in case.
Read up: Recapture Your Health is an excellent book that shows to reverse chronic illness symptoms through exercise by using a self-help wellness program called the 3LS (Three-Legged Stool). Some of the basic exercises listed in Fitness for Dummies can also be useful.
Find your motivation: Most of us need a reason to find time to exercise. Do you want to remain an active parent or grandparent? Do you find that exercising helps with your depression? Whatever your motivation might be, pick one or two things that exercise will help you accomplish and remember them on the days when you don’t feel like working out.