HEALTHY LIVING — Exercise needed when living with chronic health conditions

Published 12:22 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

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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 a fitness routine. They 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 health care professional.

When living with a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health. Aerobic exercise can help to improve your heart health and endurance and aid in weight loss.

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Strength training can improve muscle strength and endurance, make it easier to do daily activities, slow disease-related declines in muscle strength and provide stability to joints. Flexibility exercises may help you to have optimal range of motion about your joints, so they can function best, and stability exercises may help reduce the risk of falls.

For example:

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 aerobics 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 strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness.

Aquatic exercise takes pressure off back and joints while providing resistance essential for a good workout.

Your doctor might recommend specific movements 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 to exercise.

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 importantly, 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 writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at