Will regular exercise reduce my symptoms and flares generally?
Exercise can be beneficial for those suffering from autoimmune conditions for several reasons. Exercise helps to regulate blood sugar and weight. Exercise helps increase mental alertness and feelings of well-being and exercise can help to combat fatigue if done carefully. Exercise is very therapeutic in most all cases of autoimmune conditions if it is done gradually and gently. The key here is gradual and gentle, without overdoing muscle fatigue and increasing pain.
How does regular exercise help with endocrine-related flares?
Regular exercise helps maintain regular secretions of hormones like insulin and thyroid hormones. These hormones will keep body systems running smoothly during stressful life situations keeping flares to a minimum.
Exercise for those with an autoimmune condition has a different purpose than those that are aiming for a 5K run or are training for a big race or athletic competition. Exercise for those with autoimmune conditions is designed to maintain muscle function and improve overall health and well-being, including decreasing or minimizing pain. If that leads to running a 5K then great, but the daily race of living is the ultimate goal.
Exercise can be done up to three times a week if tolerated. The goal is to be routine and regular stretching muscles and increasing mobility and endurance. Exercising just once a week will not increase endurance and doesn’t help maintain muscle flexibility. Daily gentle stretching and a short daily walk might be more beneficial if tolerated without exhaustion. Balance a daily nap or rest period for optimal health.
What are some options for exercise when I’m so tired?
Walking short distances in your neighborhood or up and down the driveway every day may be enough exercise for some, while others may have the endurance to walk several blocks up to a mile or more. Walking is the least stressful on joints, but for some may be too tiring.
If walking is too stressful or tiring, try sitting in a sturdy chair and stretching neck, arms and legs from a seated position. Another way to increase endurance when fatigued is to tighten a muscle group and hold for 10 seconds then relax. These tightening and relaxing exercises can be done sitting or lying and help to keep your muscles toned.
Does the exercise have to be aerobic for me to get the benefits listed above?
Exercise does not necessarily need to be aerobic in nature to give you health related benefits for those with autoimmune conditions. The key is to make it regular, gentle and gradual and keep up a routine. Examples of exercises that fit those guidelines are yoga and tai-chi.
Questions for your doctor:
- What types of exercises do you suggest?
- How often do you advise me to exercise?
- Is there any activity that I should avoid with my condition?
- What signs or symptoms would I report if they occur during or after exercising?
Note: Exercise is beneficial for those with autoimmune conditions and should be thoroughly discussed with your healthcare provider for optimum health and wellness.
About the Author
Terri Forehand is a critical care nurse and freelance writer. She is the author The Cancer Prayer Book and a soon to be released picture book titled The ABC’s of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. She writes from her home where she lives with her husband and an array of rescue dogs nestled in the hills of Brown County, Indiana.