Chronic Illness and Gentle Exercise
The link between physical well-being and emotional well-being has been proven time and time again. We know it’s good for us to get up and move about. However, for fighters of a chronic illness we’re often extremely reluctant due to pain. In this case it is highly recommended we do as much gentle exercise as possible as to not overdo ourselves. At the beginning your pain will increase, but pushing through this will allow your body to become fitter and work at a constant pace going forward. Below you will find some health benefits and suggestions of gentle exercise to give a go!
- Improved Sleep
- Aids in Digestion
- Increased Blood Flow
- Release of Endorphins – interacts with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
- Reduces Stress
- Reins in Anxiety and Depression
- Increased Energy Levels
- Safe Way to Reduce Tension
- Improves Muscles Strength – Important as we often let this slide when fighting a Chronic Illness
How to Start
Know that the exercise will help you. The pain from exercise isn’t forever, but the pain from your muscles seizing up will impact your daily life more than you think.
Start slowly. Please don’t get carried away to begin with and exhaust yourself. This will only lead to you hating exercise and recovering in bed for multiple days after. This is something we don’t want. Start in small sessions with low intensity. Even ten minutes a day and slowly build up from there.
Listen to your body. More so important for patients of a Chronic Illness. If your body is screaming something at you, do not ignore this. Although a lot of healthy people can knuckle down and push through, you will find that doing that will often lead to large symptom flare ups. Take a small two-minute break, have a drink of water and then get back to it. If your body is feeling particularly bad, call it a day. Start again tomorrow. The fact that you’re out there looking after your body is achievement enough.
Do something every day. This doesn’t need to be an hour-long yoga session or a 5km run. Something as simple as walking the dog, a quick 15min yoga session or taking the flight of stairs instead of the elevator. It’s important to keep your body moving everyday, even in the smallest of ways. This keeps your blood pressure regulated, your mind in a healthier place and ensures you maintain the fitness you’ve been working so hard on getting.
Take Breaks. Much along the lines of listening to your body, you will need to take regular breaks. Our chronically ill bodies aren’t wired to cope with long durations of exercise. You will need mini breaks to regain your breath and to give your body a quick rest. Then carry on as you were.
Start when you’re feeling your best. You want to start your exercise journey with maximum motivation to ensure you’re giving it your best shot. When you wake up and feel good, you’ll know it’s time!
Where to Start
- Yoga – Gentle exercise you can take at your own pace. This helps increase flexibility and helps you focus on your breathing. This in turn reduces stress, pain and provides a way to relieve tension.
- Class activities – Getting out there and taking group classes is a fun way to stay motivated. It provides accountability and is a great way to make new friends. There’s also group classes for everything, so give things a go and work out what is best for you!
- Walking– A light aerobic exercise which will oxygenate your muscles. No equipment needed and can lead you to some beautiful scenery.
- Aqua Aerobics / Swimming– Water provides buoyancy offering the perfect low impact exercise on sore joints and muscles. For an extra treat scope out your local warm water pool and get moving!
- Take up a Sport– Taking up a low intensity sport is a great way to dedicate yourself to something and get fit all at the same time.
- Everyday Fun at Home– Chasing the children and vacuuming the house all add up in the exercise department! If you cannot get out, make it a cleaning day or run some errands. You’ll be moving without even realising.
Most smartphones these days have a step counter, if not you can easily pick one up from your local store. Try aim for 10,000 steps a day. Once you set the goal be determined to hit it day in and day out.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Do not starve your body of water. It is very important to replenish the water lost through exercise.
Don’t forget to warm up and stretch up. Just as important as this, is warming down. Do not skip this, you will feel it for days!
As always, let me know what you think and if you having fantastic ideas to add.