Exercises for chronic diseases

Published 10:52 am Monday, September 16, 2019

Staying active is important for everyone. But if you are challenged with a chronic illness, it can seem more difficult to maintain an active lifestyle. For people with chronic injuries or illnesses, the benefits of exercise and staying active are even greater. Staying active, which includes two and a half hours a week (20 to 25 minutes a day) of some type of exercise, is important for maintaining well-being, boosting the immune system, building and maintaining healthy bone density, weight loss or weight maintenance, increasing lung capacity and reducing surgical risks

Before you begin your exercise program, talk with your doctor about your capabilities. Ask your doctor or other health or exercise professional what your heart rate should be during exercise. An easy way to know whether your heart rate is at the right level during exercise is to notice whether you can talk and exercise at the same time. If you are unable to talk and exercise at the same time, then you are working too hard and you need to slow down. If you are able to sing and exercise at the same time, you are not working hard enough.

The types of exercises that are best for people with chronic illnesses are stretching, strength training and activities that raise your heart rate. Exercises that increase your heart rate increase blood flow. Increasing blood flow promotes healing and thought clarity.

Stretching exercises include yoga, chair yoga, water yoga and Tai Chi. Strength training includes lifting light weights or isometric exercises that can tone and strengthen the muscles without putting pressure on the joints. Moderate-intensity exercises that raise your heart rate include brisk walking, hiking, stair climbing, swimming or other sports, such as volleyball, tennis or soccer. Low intensity exercises that raise your heart rate and have a lower risk of injury are walking, gardening, housework, dancing and water aerobics.

Exercising safely is just as important as exercising. An exercise program should include a warm-up, such as a short walk and stretching. It should also include some aerobic activity and a cool-down period to allow the muscles to recover. Watch for signs that you are working too hard, such as becoming short of breath, nauseated or dizzy. Avoid holding your breath while you exercise. Breathe evenly and deeply. If you have chest pain, stop, sit down and call your doctor. If your medicines change, ask your doctor whether you should continue or modify your fitness program. Talking to your doctor or a certified fitness professional about your progress can motivate and help you feel supported. Start slowly, listen to your body and remember to breathe.

Kathryn Hansen, exercise instructor II at Vidant Wellness Center, Washington, can be reached at 252-975-4236.