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Discussing the good, bad and ugly experiences patients face in healthcare today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I like to move it - move it!

For anyone who's ever had an health issue that kept you from exercising, you know what I mean when I say it can be a big issue. If you're not able to exercise, it can cause more problems. Other people don't understand why you can't do simple physical activity, or why you can't do as much of it as they think you should. It's frustrating to feel physically limited, like you can't keep up with everyone else. Lack of activity can bring on depression, fatigue, and weight gain. If the health problem lasts long enough and is severe, it can make you not want to move at all, no matter how good exercise is for you. Mom cried when the cardiologist (who had just put several stents in her heart) told her she needed to exercise. The FMS and Lupus had been so bad and she was in so much pain that she thought exercise was impossible. He said that if she wanted to live, she had to exercise.

The truth is, you're not in competition with anyone but yourself. Talk to your doctor about a safe exercise routine you can commit to, and start small. Even if you're doing resistance exercises with a band or walking 5 minutes a day, you're doing something, and chances are you'll be able to increase the amount of physical activity you do over a period of time. Mom started out walking to the next house and back, and worked her way up to a mile a day. Her Fibro pain became much less severe, her heart was healthy, and it definitely helped when she was diagnosed with Diabetes. I can say that when I exercise more, I get better sleep and have less pain. Don't worry about others' expectations, or comparing yourself to other peoples' fitness levels. It's about you and your well being. If you have to, stay away from gyms (unless being around others is what motivates you!)

Set realistic goals for yourself and find what works for you. Don't overdo it. You'll quickly learn when you've exerted yourself too much. Don't beat yourself up over it; just back off and give yourself a break. Be sure to stretch before and after any activity, breathe steadily and purposefully during exercise, and give yourself time to rest between workouts, whatever that means for you.

Some low-impact exercise ideas that require no equipment, can be easily modified to your fitness level or injuries, and can be mixed and matched:

Walking. If you're able, this is a great exercise that you can take at your own pace. It's easy and fun to do with a partner (it's a great time to chat,) and can be scenic if you're not using the treadmill. To find out if your neighborhood is walk-friendly, go to walkscore.com and enter your address. You can even enter a specific commute to see how long your walk will be.

Biking is a good alternative to walking, especially if you're running errands and don't want to have to carry bags around. WalkScore also gives estimated times for biking trips.

Yoga. You'll learn how to breathe with each movement, you'll stretch, and you'll use your own body weight to strengthen muscles. Try Hatha yoga for a stress reducing workout, and, my favorite, Ashtanga for cardio.

Tai chi. Again, breath is very important, and can be a little less intimidating for those who associate yoga with turning into a pretzel.

Pilates. Using repetitive muscle movement (usually lying down,) you focus on core strength, which is helpful no matter what your health issues!

Water aerobics or swimming. This is about as low impact as you can get, but be careful! The weightlessness you feel in the water alleviates pain in joints and muscles while working out, but that same weightlessness can sometimes result in overexertion that you will definitely feel the next day. Even walking in water that's waist deep is a workout!

Dancing. You don't even need a partner. Just turn on the music and move your body! You can also check out a local college for dance lessons in their continuing education course list, or check the YMCA.

Wishing you wellness,

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