Exercise and Chronic Pain | Fitness Friday

Living with chronic pain can be incredibly limiting when it comes to getting enough exercise.  On our worst days, simply getting up to use the bathroom may be a daunting task.  And even on good days, the concept of heading to the gym and pounding our feet against the floor of a treadmill or feeling the weight of a barbell pulling on your shoulders sounds like a terrible torture.   But most of you probably know that not exercising simply leads to more pain and more discomfort later down the road.  Exercising leads to better circulation, and better muscle tone can take a lot of pressure off of joints for those with arthritis and similar illnesses.  But getting started out isn’t easy when you have these limitations, so I’m going to give some tips on how to get the exercise you need without needing a weeks recovery each time.

Low Impact

Certain activities simply put too much pressure and strain on the parts of us that are the most sensitive to pain and inflammation.  So choosing cardio workouts that are easy on your problem spots can encourage you to exercise more often.  Try an Elliptical machine, which works your leg muscles and your heart without the slamming of your ankles and knees that you get from running on a track or treadmill.  And swimming, or water exercises in general can give you a surprisingly tough workout while leaving pressure off your joints entirely, and can even feel therapeutic.  When lifting weights, remember to go slowly and avoid any quick or jerking motions in both directions, and don’t be afraid to start small if you don’t know your limits yet.

Hydrate

It might be obvious to most people that drinking water when working out is important.  But for those of us with inflammation-based pain, water is the best preventative action we can take.  Being well hydrated reduces inflammation in the body, so before you work out, make sure you’ve been drinking enough water!  Other things you can do preventatively are to try taking Fish Oil complexes (unless you have been told not to by a physician).  In addition to their cardiovascular benefits, Fish Oil has been shown to reduce inflammation (particularly in Lupus patients) on the whole in only 12 weeks.  This can be a huge benefit for your health overall, not just your ability to exercise!

Pace

Exercising is best when it is consistent.  So especially for those of us with physical limitations, we want to avoid working so hard that we wind up taking large gaps for recovery.  Start slow, and work up to something that you can do consistently without damaging yourself, this way you can keep improving, and can keep at it without getting discouraged or hurt.

And the final advice is to take care of your body outside the gym.  Eat foods that help increase your energy rather than deplete it, and avoid going long days (at least good days, that is) with little to no activity.  One healthy action typically begets the next, and soon you’ll be living better all around!

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