HEALTHY LIVING: Exercise eases chronic disease

Published 11:11 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2016

If you have a chronic disease — such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or back or joint pain — exercise can have important health benefits. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine. He or she will advise you on what exercises are safe and any precautions you might need to take while exercising. Never start any fitness regimen without the advice of your doctor.

If you have a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


Heart disease. Regular exercise can help improve your heart health. Recent studies have shown that interval training is often tolerated well in people with heart disease, and it can produce significant benefits.

Diabetes. Regular exercise can help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level. Physical activity also can help you control your weight and boost your energy.

Asthma. Often, exercise can help control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

Back pain. Regular low-impact aerobic activities can increase strength and endurance in your back and improve muscle function. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) may help reduce symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your spine.

Arthritis. Exercise can reduce pain, help maintain muscle in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness.

Your doctor might recommend specific exercises to reduce pain or build strength. Depending on your condition, you might also need to avoid certain exercises altogether or during flare-ups. In some cases, you might need to consult a physical or occupational therapist before starting.

If you have low back pain, for example, you might choose low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking and swimming. These types of activities won’t strain or jolt your back.

If you have exercise-induced asthma, you might choose activities that involve short bursts of activity — such as tennis or baseball. If you use an inhaler, be sure to keep it handy while you exercise.

If you have arthritis, the exercises that are best for you will depend on the type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to create an exercise plan that will give you the most benefit with the least aggravation on your joints.

Depending on your condition, your doctor might recommend certain precautions before exercising. If you have diabetes, for example, keep in mind that physical activity lowers blood sugar. Check your blood sugar level before any activity. If you take insulin or diabetes medications that lower blood sugar, you might need to eat a snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar. If you have arthritis, consider taking a warm shower before you exercise. Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin. Also, be sure to choose shoes that provide shock absorption and stability during exercise. Most important, watch for any signs or symptoms of complications from exercising.

Start slow, build up intensity gradually. To stay motivated, choose activities that are fun, set realistic goals and celebrate your progress. Consult with your doctor and take that first step towards fitness. Stay healthy my friends.

Jody Holton is marketing director of the YMCA of Southeast Texas. Contact her at