For people with persisting health problems, obstacles such as pain, fatigue, debilitating symptoms and limited mobility can be very real setbacks to a regular exercise routine…
While it may seem counter-intuitive to exercise when you’re bedridden, housebound or struggling to maintain a ‘normal’ life, a gentle and moderate programme – which for some might be less along the conventional lines of a gym work out and more along the lines of intentional movement, aimed at increasing your levels of fitness – incorporated into the routines of daily life, can relieve much of your pain and fatigue whilst improving your overall health and quality of daily life.
If you’re struggling to find a suitable exercise, try focusing your attention on performing daily activities such as showering, making the bed, preparing meals, shopping and taking care of children whilst at the same time bringing your awareness to your posture, range of movement and the pace you perform each activity. Do what you can do; increase the duration incrementally and only when you’re ready.
Those that can exercise will find that regular participation in low-impact aerobics such as cycling, walking and swimming will help to strengthen and stabilize joints and their surrounding tissues, improve metabolism, increase muscle and bone strength and cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) function. The gentle stretching movements of yoga can help loosen up tight muscles and joints; assist with balance and strength and when done in the traditional way which emphasizes controlled breathing and awareness, can help to relax, calm and focus the mind. Tai Chi’s non-impact, deliberate movements are another great form of exercise for those with limited movement or energy. Remember that each person is unique, likewise each person is unique in what works for them.
Here are some simple steps to help get you started or just to keep you going:
Take a slow and steady approach to your exercise and keep in mind why you’re doing it i.e. to go on a bike ride with the family, take a walk around an historical building or simply to have more energy.
Your chances of sticking with an exercise programme are much greater if you like what you are doing, so find a form of exercise you enjoy and incorporate it into a regular part of your normal daily activities.
If you have trouble motivating yourself to exercise alone, exercise with a friend or join a class.
Whatever you do, don’t over do it. Know your limitations and stay within them. Don’t feel like you have to make it through an entire class or push through the pain, as it will likely make you hurt much worse later on.
Above all, try to stay positive – recognising and challenging negative thoughts, can help you to cope better with your challenges.
NB: If you haven’t exercised for a long time, are elderly or have a chronic disease (such as arthritis, fybromyalgia, MS), please see your doctor before you start any new physical activity as they can help to suggest appropriate and safe exercises for you.