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When you have a chronic illness and/or chronic pain the last thing you want to do is exercise.  But it’s one of the first thing that you will hear from your doctor as a way to make you feel better.  That often leaves you frustrated and annoyed, saying “I hurt too much and am way to fatigued to ever think about exercise.” However research shows that it does have benefits for the chronically ill. That leaves you asking “What kind of exercise can I do when I can hardly move.”  Lets discuss that along with the benfits of exercise.

So here we go, exercise is good for you they say. Well how is it good for us?

Physical benfits of exercise:

  • Helps to build a stronger heart muscle to help combat heart disease.
  • Helps to low blood sugar
  • Improves muscle strength to help stabilize your back and improves muscle function.
  • Can reduce pain caused by Arthritis or Fibromyalgia.

Exercise can also help to reduce depression or anxiety a person may feel. A study was done at UC-Davis School of Medicine that showed that people with better mental health feel less pain. So we need to work to improve our mental health by exercising. Exercise causes release of the “feel good hormones,” (serotonin and dopamine)  which work to improve your mood, appetite, sleep and memory.

So now we know why we need to get moving, but what’s the next step?

  • It is a MUST that you speak with your physician before you start any kind of exercise program. They will be able to help you determine what kinds of activities and intensity levels you might be able to handle. 
  • Consider working with a personal trainer who has experience with your illness. As they can be helpful when starting a new exercise regimen.
  • Start SLOW and build up. If it has been awhile since you have been doing any execise it will take a while to build up your endurance. Walking for a few minutes a day is better than no walking.  Your body will slowly adapt  and get strong with regular exercise.
  • Choose activities that you enjoy. If you enjoy doing something you are more likely to want to keep doing it. 
  • Choose  a buddy to workout with. This can help to keep you motivated and accountable. 
  • Alternate your activities to keep exercise fresh. 
  • Be patient with your progress. Overexerction could make your pain worse.
  • Move at your own pace. Never try to keep up with a class if what they are doing is causing you pain. 
  • And most importantly accept that some days you will be able to do more that others.

Now we know why, and what to do and accept when starting a new exercise program.  But what kind of exercising should we do?  What exercises are good for people like us.  Lets find out what is recommended. 

Here are a list of exercises for people in pain:

  1. Walking- This is a low-impact activity that is good if you have the physical capability. One of the biggest benefits of this activity is that you can do it just about anywhere, any time.  And do not have to join a gym to do so. 
  2. Swimming- This activity is great for people with OA, have musculoskeletal issues, or any joint disease. This activity is beneficial because swimming and water exercise defies gravity, so there are not any pain on the joints and the risk of injury is low. 
  3. Yoga- The breathing that is done when doing yoga could be as helpful to ease pain as the movement and stretching. It is cautioned that the extreme range of motion could cause injury. So it is recommended that you do whatever is comfortable to do not push past that. 
  4. Tai Chi- This activity is good for the young and old alike. As long as you can move you can do Tai-Chi as is incorporates the mind and body. Tai-Chi done twice a week has been found to reduce pain, stiffness and fatigue in patients with Fibromyalgia. It helps to build strength, endurance and balance. 
  5. Pilates- This activity helps to build core strength. And was developed for a “society that’s extremely burdened by low back pain by Joseph Pilates. People who have Fibromyalgia can also benefit from Pilates. It has been found that piilaties improved pain more that a relaxation/stretching regimens. That being said this exercise requires instruction. So make sure you find an experienced teacher. 
  6. Simple stretching- This activity can be done anywhere, in line, in bed or even in the car. Research shows that “Stretching and getting all your body parts moving in a full range of motion and working just a little bit against gravity is helpful” Dr. Fine (
  7. Light-weight and strength training-  Working with weights can be particulary helpful for those with arthritis. By doing so exercises that strengthen the joints around an injury it takes the stress off the joint you are using. Its important to pace yourself when working with weights as they can cause injury. If you have been inactive for a significant time try starting with using a soup can as weight or do sit-ups or push-ups. 

We have now covered why to exercise, how to start an new regimen, what to watch for and then the exercises recommended for those with chronic pain or illness.  So what’s left? GET MOVING!! 

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