If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, the last thing you might be willing to consider is taking up an exercise routine! However, several sources indicate that doing so might actually be the best way to avoid flare ups, improve function and diminish pain.
A Mayo Clinic article cites regular physical activity as ‘crucial’ and suggests working your way up to at least 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic activity three times per week. The key here is to start small and slow! Now that Spring is upon us, consider taking just a 10 minute stroll at an easy pace three times per week. You can listen to some relaxing music and enjoy time outside to check out the budding trees.
If you’d like to start out even lower impact, you might find a pool and walk for a bit in the shallow end – no need to jump right in to an hour long water aerobics class just yet! Another minimal impact option is bike riding. Just an easy cruise around the block might be a sufficient start. Try to find a route that doesn’t involve any big hills to climb!
As you progress – and hopefully feel great – you can gradually add a few minutes in duration to each session. But build very slowly, keeping in mind that overdoing your good days can result in more bad days! In short, you shouldn’t feel like you’ve had a “work out” after your sessions.
If aerobic exercise doesn’t appeal, consider the results of a 2010 study that suggests yoga may also be beneficial. While the physical benefits of regular light stretching may be obvious, a large part of yoga involves developing a mind-body connection. By doing so, it may be possible to identify triggers (and avoid them.) But when all else fails, the meditation and breathing techniques learned in yoga can be useful in coping with pain. Check out Sarah’s inspiring story of how yoga not only changed her life.
If you feel up to it, here are eight yoga poses for fibromyalgia suffers. (Of course, they’re a great starting point for anybody with or without a chronic illness as well!)
One final note: Don’t forget to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and listen to your body! If you start experiencing more pain flares as a result of your exercise regimen, scale back.