Living with a chronic illness such as Fibromyalgia, Lyme, Hashimoto’s, Graves, Crohns, or Rheumatoid Arthritis is hard enough. Some days getting out of bed is the most that a person can muster and heading to work or school for the day is the mental and physical equivalent of finishing a marathon on a pogo stick. The thought of working out feels impossible and often a sense of resignation to being unhappy and unhealthy takes over. You are fighting an invisible battle and no one seems to understand the strength that takes.
As someone with my own struggles to keep chronic symptoms from taking over my life and as a personal trainer with a passion for all things wellness, I have done the research and turned myself into a fitness guinea pig to find out what works and what doesn’t so you can reap the benefits. That’s not to say that any of this advice is universal (and you should absolutely consult with your doctor about what level of activity is best for your specific situation), but there are some things that seem to be generally helpful for those of us dealing with autoimmune/chronic health problems.
Inflammation is the worst. It can cause flare ups of pain, can affect muscle, joints, the nervous system, and more, leaving you exhausted and unable to do much beyond sit on the couch. Certain exercises can cause increased inflammation such as high intensity sprints or spinning. Don’t take on more than you can comfortably do. Low impact exercises like yoga, walking, weightlifting, or Pilates can all give a great workout and boost endorphins without leaving you in pain for days.
Don’t Over Train
This is basically an extension of the last point, but listening to your body is the most important advice I can offer. Everyone is different and our bodies will react differently to different levels of training. Maybe one week you are able to do 5 days of training and the next you can only do one–don’t let that discourage you! This is a lifelong journey and it is much more important to avoid injury that it is to hit a certain number of workouts a week.
Have Fun With It
Living with a chronic illness is stressful enough–don’t let exercise be part of that equation! There are so many fun, safe, and healthy classes at your local gym or workout videos on YouTube that will improve your health and keep you fit without aggravating your illness. Sometimes it can feel hopeless to try and create healthy habits while fighting your immune system, but if you find an activity that you love doing, it wont matter as much what the outcomes are. Enjoy the process and embrace where you are at in this moment.