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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Exercise and Chronic Health Issues

Some people have chronic health problems. What does it mean? It means that they are sometimes acutely sick and in severe pain for an indefinite period of time, and the rest of the time they are in a relatively good shape, or in other words “in remission”. Being in this state of apparent good health does not mean they can do everything they want. Actually, it’s highly individual. The common feature among these people is that they all need to adapt their exercise regimen accordingly.

Chronic Health Conditions include for example Coeliac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Cancers, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Diseases, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia. Adrenal Fatigue and Gut Dysbiosis (imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract), even though not diagnosed by conventional doctors, must be taken into account when planning a workout program.
I’m writing this post to help people who deal with chronic health issues. In this situation, exercising is different. Building a program, sticking to it and pushing to the point of exhaustion doesn’t make any sense. And yet, those people want to exercise, like every one else! (I am one of them, by the way…)
As a Personal Trainer and thanks to my own experience, I will tell you how to reconsider your attitude with regard to exercise.
1) What to do when the body flares up
  • Be kind with yourself. Don’t blame yourself because you can’t or can hardly exercise. When this thought comes into your mind, breathe-in deeply, close your eyes and tell yourself very slowly “My body is smart. It will preserve my muscle mass and my fitness. For now, my body is focused on healing”
  • Every morning, take a moment to say one affirmation out loud, in front of a mirror. For example: “I know that my healing is already in process” (Read Louise Hay to know more about this approach)
  • Meditate as often as you can. If you have no experience in the field, ask a friend to borrow a CD at the Library. Look for a CD focused on Mindfulness for Beginners or on Meditation for Pain Relief
  • Pay attention to things that aggravate pain or fatigue. Write them down, and then avoid them. Take a moment and close your eyes to forgive your body for not being able to function as normal
  • Be honest with yourself, with your loved ones and with your friends. Let them know that you are unwell
  • Ask for some help when you need to. Don’t refuse when people offer their help spontaneously
2) How to pull yourself together, after the storm has gone
  • Be grateful for every little improvement regarding your health
  • Be in the moment; appreciate the “now” even if it’s not exactly what you were expecting
  • Allow 10 to 20 minutes everyday for self –massage with a foam roller and mobility work
  • Make “wellness” your priority. For example, winning the next Blackmores Sydney Half-Marathon may not be a Relevant objective, even though Specific, Measurable and Attainable (and exciting!) Why? Because the training load may trigger excessive stress, which may me detrimental to your health. I know this is hard to hear! It doesn’t mean that you can’t run! You could for example register for a short run and set your sights at finishing it
  • Tailor each workout to your level of energy at the time of the workout. Unlike healthy people, someone with chronic health issues may not be able to perform better each time
  • Take into account your health issues to select the exercises (for example, avoid military press if you have neck pain). There is always a safe option for you
  • Avoid intense training, i.e the ones that lead to exhaustion (High Intensity Interval Trainings, sprints, long duration cardio workouts, heavy lifting), because they put your body under extreme stress, which may have harmful effect on your immune system and aggravate your condition
  • Move a little bit every day. Long walks in the fresh air, Tai Chi, Yoga, Dance or appropriate Resistance Training are excellent ways to get well
  • Before each session, talk to your Personal Trainer about how you feel (level of energy, soreness, sleep quality, motivation to exercise) They should take your comments into account, so you can have fun during your workout
  • After each session, get adequate rest.
We are all different, and we are all learning as life goes on. I would love to hear your experience. How do you exercise with chronic health issues?

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