Exercising with Chronic Disease: What You Need to Know

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Various studies have proven that regular physical activity provides a range of benefits for people of all ages. By exercising, people reduce their risk of chronic diseases and improve weight management. Physical activity also improves psychological well-being, enhances mood, and increases concentration.

However, for people under care for chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and asthma, physical activity can be challenging. For example, the inflammatory nature of RA affects one’s joint movements and pain levels.

Improving Chronic Condition with Exercise

The pain that comes with a chronic condition might discourage someone from exercising, but doctors recommend regular physical activity.

Here are common chronic condition and how exercise helps manage symptoms and improve physical health:

  • Arthritis: Regular physical activity helps maintain muscle strength in affected joints. It also reduces joint stiffness and pain.
  • Back pain: Low-impact aerobic exercise improves endurance and strength. It also enhances muscle function.
  • Cancer: Exercise improves the quality of life and lowers the risk of death.
  • Diabetes: Physical activity allows insulin to lower blood sugar levels. It also controls weight and improves energy.

Knowing What Activities are Suitable

Before starting an exercise routine, it’s essential to talk to the attending physician or a physical therapist. They will recommend which physical activities are safe and what precautions to take.

Depending on the condition, some exercises might be better for you while others worsen your condition. For example, patients with back pain are recommended low-impact aerobic activities like swimming and walking.

The attending physician or physical therapist will also recommend the duration of an exercise session. The World Health Organization recommends an average of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 30 minutes per day.

If the patient struggles with the recommended duration, the doctor can recommend breaking the exercise into short chunks of time distributed throughout the day. Patients can also look for alternatives to exercise, like doing chores or playing with their children.

Precautions to Take

Even if the doctor approves an exercise session, they will recommend certain precautions, depending on the patient’s condition.

For example, a diabetic patient cannot exercise while their blood sugar levels are low. They might need to check their blood sugar and eat a snack before engaging in physical activity.

Listening to the Body

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Although daily exercise is beneficial for people with chronic conditions, it pays to listen to the body. It does not hurt to rest for a day when they feel drained. Continuing to exercise despite the warning sign might aggravate the chronic condition.

Patients are recommended to speak to their doctor if they feel any form of discomfort during exercise. It might be the case that the discomfort is pain is normal, but it might also be a sign of something severe. For example, patients with heart disease who experience dizziness, chest pain, or unusual shortness of breath are recommended to stop exercising.

Starting an exercise routine can be challenging, although it becomes more complicated when one is diagnosed with a chronic disease. However, physical activity helps one manage symptoms and lowers the risk of the disease worsening. Patients are recommended to speak to their attending physicians to see what exercises are best for their condition.

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