This post was included in Chronic Babe Blog Carnival #42: The Winter Wellness and Fitness Edition.
People with lupus and fibro are always hearing how important exercise is to manage our pain and keep flares in check. Ok, ok, we get it. Exercise is important. Perhaps doctors don’t get how hard it actually is to get that exercise in though. Actually getting a regular workout is incredibly hard when you’re always exhausted and in constant pain. It takes an awful lot of willpower to get past those two major concerns. It’s something that I’ve really been working on over the last year and a half. Having lupus means that there is a limited amount of time that can be spent in the sun. this is unfortunate as a lot of exercise promotion efforts focus on the idea that it canbe fun to go have fun running around outside. Nevertheless, I have found a few (indoor) activities that seem to work for me – maybe other people will find them helpful too.
This is probably one of the most important things that I do. It is incredibly helpful with relaxing and stretching my joints. It also seems to do wonders for my stiff and cramped muscles. I definitely notice a huge difference when I miss yoga too often. I try to do yoga 2-3x/week. If you don’t have access to a yoga studio, I know people who do yoga at home from exercise DVDs (I think Netflix also has some on instant watch) or even just do some basic stretching.
2. Gentle Walk/Jog on an Elliptical Machine
I find that walking on a treadmill or outside can cause a lot of knee and hip stiffness the next day, probably due to the impact of my feet hitting the ground/treadmill. However, an elliptical machine eliminates this issue for me. Gentle aerobic exercise 4-5x/week really helps to relieve my muscle stiffness and reduce fatigue levels. ( I do sometimes go for a walk around the lake in the summer with my family – equipped with a hat and lots of sunscreen, of course!)
Swimming would be even more ideal, but unfortunately my gynecologist doesn’t let me swim because I’m prone to yeast infections with my immunosuppressants. If you are able to swim though, it’s the best of the low-impact aerobic exercises. Some of my friends go for walks with spouses/partners/significant others or walk their dogs regularly.
3. Personal Trainer
I have been very lucky to find reasonable, flexible personal trainers who have experience, training and schooling working with physical therapy and recovery. This has been very helpful in helping me to gently build up muscles around my joints, which helps me to take pressure off of them. We have also been working on strengthening my lower back muscles which is important when I spend so much time sitting and/or sitting up in bed. It helps that my trainers have been very understanding about my illness and its limitations. They get that I sometimes have to cancel last minute. At this point, they can also predict that some days won’t work for me based on the weather that day. They are also very understanding about my limited budget – and don’t push me to buy too many sessions. In fact, we split the 2 sessions/month into 4 30min sessions which is more than enough at one time.
If this isn’t a feasible option for you, you might want to see if your insurance will cover some physical therapy. A physical therapist should be able to put together some strengthening exercises for you to do.
In talking to my friends with varying chronic diseases, it seems that different people have found different levels and ways of doing these things. Not being able to go outside may be a restriction for people with a lot of illnesses, but for people with lupus it’s all the same. Except, of course, that the cold aggravates stiffness and pain for many of us. Trying to keep up with these exercises really helps me to balance out the effects of the cold weather. Rain in the summer hurts us as much as the shine of the sun too. Basically, we need the exercise – regardless of the weather (most of which hurts us anyway).