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6 Tips for Exercising With Your Autoimmune Disorder

6 Tips for Exercising With Your Autoimmune Disorder
6 Tips for Exercising With Your Autoimmune Disorder
Mia Barnes
Mia Barnes Contributer

If you have an autoimmune disorder, your doctor undoubtedly recommended regular mild workouts to help you control your symptoms. However, the last thing you want to do during a flare-up is lace up your running shoes. You need tips to make exercising manageable. 

Your doctor is right, that working out can ease the symptoms of many conditions, but you must first break through the initial discomfort and find a program that works well for you. Following one-size-fits-all approaches inevitably end in frustration, as popular fads fail to consider your unique physiology. Fortunately, you can still sweat it up and reap the benefits when you find a program that fits your needs.

Why Take a Holistic Approach to Treat Autoimmune Disorders? 

Holistic medicine is less of a “different approach” than a collection of complementary therapies that address the psychological, societal, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of total health with biology. Humans sometimes unwittingly add to their suffering with poor habits driven by modern life. Holistic approaches, including exercise, diet, sleep, and alternative treatments like massage and acupuncture, address the whole person, not only individual, selected symptoms. 

Such an approach might sound “New Age” to some, but it has biological merit. Every system of your body affects all the others. Each system cannot function without the others, none being independent from another.

For example, you might have heard that omega-3s are good for your heart and cardiovascular system. However, they also impact your hormones and immune function. For example, researchers have used the same fats to treat the morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Diet is one aspect of holistic fitness, and exercise is another. Here’s how you can get your daily dose of movement, even on flare days. 

6 Tips for Exercising With Your Autoimmune Disorder 

Are you ready to start your fitness plan? Here are six tips for exercising with an autoimmune disorder. 

1. Find the Right Program 

There’s good news — you don’t have to train hard to reap benefits. Grueling workouts might not be the best approach for those with autoimmune disorders, as they push you past the intensity threshold. Cortisol levels rise when you exercise intensely. When cortisol levels rise, your endocrine system is impacted, which in turn impacts your immune function. 

Cortisol is a naturally occurring substance in the human body. It doesn’t just regulate that “fight or flight” response, but also impacts functions, such as:

  • Acting as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Helping memory formation.
  • Regulating blood pressure.
  • Regulating immune system function.
  • Regulating growth.

Too much cortisol means a negative impact. If your workouts are too intense, you will have negative results. Instead, look for something moderate, like the following:

  • Walking 
  • Dancing
  • Riding a bike or e-bike 
  • Some forms of yoga 
  • Roller or ice skating
  • Hiking
  • Swimming  

2. Work With a Trainer

Even if you’ve worked out in the past, it’s worth booking a visit or two with a trainer. Many gyms include them as part of the membership fee, so take advantage of this perk. 

Exercise physiology is a rapidly-changing profession, as people learn more about what works for whom. It’s why trainers undergo mandatory continuing education — they can show you new techniques that work best and provide you with the most recent data to support new methods.

3. Use the 10-Minute Rule

During a flare-up, you might not want to visit the gym or even march in place in your living room. Use this technique when you think you might be able to push through, but hesitate: Set a timer and do mild activity for 10 minutes. 

The trick is to let yourself stop after 10 minutes if you still feel lousy. However, you’ll often feel encouraged to continue if the movement eases your symptoms. 

It’s a great way to get started, and perhaps feel the benefits before giving up for the day. At the same time, be forgiving of yourself. If you can’t do it today, that’s ok. You tried. 

4. Go Aquatic

If you have rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, you may hesitate to exercise when your joints creak. Try taking your workout to the pool. 

The water takes the weight off your knees and hips and serves as natural resistance to make walking efforts double as strength training exercises in addition to cardio. Without so much pressure in your joints, you may feel relief just getting in the pool. 

5. Include Plenty of Variety 

Walking on a treadmill can help you log miles and those all-important “steps,” but it gets boring, even with a television for company. Exercising outside when the weather permits eases stress and provides necessary variety. 

Mix up your routine, too. You might go for a walk one day and lift weights the next — you use different muscles each time.  Having a unique workout routine each day gives you a mix to choose from and works different muscles in different ways.

6. Remember, Any Movement Counts 

Any activity counts toward your daily exercise quota, even if you don’t wear your sneakers. For example, working in the garden or vigorous house cleaning qualifies as a workout. 

Don’t feel that you need to lace up and hit the gym for hours to get in some physical activity. Sometimes a few laps around the mall, scrubbing some floors, or running some flights of stairs in your own home make for a great way to keep moving.

Exercising With an Autoimmune Disorder 

Doctors frequently recommend exercise to patients with autoimmune disorders. However, you need guidance tailored to your condition.

Follow these tips for exercising with your autoimmune disorder. A little movement can ease symptoms and help you feel better when not at the gym.

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