by Cynthia Perkins © 2002
Most of us know that incorporating exercise into our daily life offers many benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer and that it helps control weight, build healthy bones and muscles, but even if we are living with a chronic illness exercise can still offer us numerous benefits that can be found nowhere else.
Many individuals living with chronic illness struggle with depression, anger and anxiety associated with the limits, losses and challenges imposed on us by our illness. Exercise is excellent for relieving depression anger and anxiety. It can help us work through these feelings and provide us with an outlet to be released.
The body’s natural release of endorphins, which occurs when we exercise provides us with wonderful emotional uplifts and can also give us relief from pain.
Exercise can also improve our energy levels, help us sleep better and more deeply and help bowel movements to be more regular and healthy. It can help us to manage stress better and boost our immune system.
By following a regular exercise routine this gives us something that we can control, when so many factors in our lives are out of our control and this can improve our mood, boost confidence and self-esteem. We will feel better about ourselves for accomplishing a goal.
Most experts agree 30 minutes at least three times a day and every day if possible of moderate intensity physical activity can provide us with these benefits. But when living with chronic illness is necessary to modify your time and days according to what your body tells you.
Start out slow and pick a less strenuous activity and increase your frequency and endurance over time. Pick an exercise you enjoy so that you will stick with it. It must be something you enjoy or you won’t stay with it. You can begin with things as simple as walking up and down and your stairs a few times, parking your car further away from your destination, taking the steps instead of the elevator, or raking the leaves. Stand up and stretch your arms and legs and do some deep breathing. Take a walk around your yard and then your street and eventually your block.
By incorporating these types of exercises into your life they are easier to maintain and stay motivated with than going to a gym or some other structured regimen.
It is my personal opinion that brisk walking is a supreme form of exercise. It is not too strenuous. You can adjust your pace and timing as needed. You can walk in a variety of places to give some different scenery daily. If you can exercise outside then you have the added benefit of nourishing your soul with all of the beauty that nature has to offer and the benefit of sunlight.
Even if five minutes a day is all you are capable of you will still benefit and feel better about yourself. Over time you can increase slowly. Listen to what your body tells you. If after exercise you feel worse or symptoms are exacerbated then that is telling you to slow down and cut back on intensity and endurance. Let your body guide you. Don’t push it too hard.
Exercise is good for our body, mind and soul. When living with chronic illness it is essential to incorporate some kind of exercise into your daily life.