Does the thought of exercise make you cringe because of your lupus pain? I know I do, but I’ve learned some things in the midst of my fight with lupus. So, before you go rejecting the idea, maybe you should consider these things about lupus and exercise.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m an individual that suffers from lupus. All content found on lupusisgoingdown.com, including text, images, audio, or other formats, were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
1. It’s Good For You Physically
Now, you might be thinking how can it be good for me if it hurts, but trust me it is. Exercise has so many benefits for someone with lupus. Exercise builds stronger muscles, helps stiff joints, and increases bone density. In addition, there’s a positive effect on your heart and longs. And, you know that these can be two problem areas for someone with lupus.
Even more, lupus helps control weight gain. Unfortunately, weight gain is a possible side effect of lupus medications like steroids.
If that wasn’t enough, exercise can help you sleep better. Obviously, that’s a great benefits for you. You know lupus can keep you up at nights.
Flowing out of that, fatigue is common with lupus. Yep, exercise reduces fatigue, as well.
Finally, exercise can reduce the possibility of flares. That’s right. Because of the effect of exercise on the side effect of medication, weight gain, and fatigue (all of which are possible flare triggers), it can reduce your flares- something you fear on a constant level.
So with so many physical benefits to exercising with lupus, what’s stopping you? Maybe you need more convincing.
2. It Works On Your Mental Health, Too
It sure does. Exercise has been known to improve mood and self-esteem. You know those blues you get because you’re tired of being sick? Or maybe you feel down because you missed out on a favorite activity? Exercise can help you with that.
You mood and self-esteem are connected to your physical state. You a whole being: mind, body, and soul. And when one suffers, your whole being takes a hit.
I know I’m preaching to the choir. In fact, it’s estimated that over 1/2 of lupus patients suffer from clinical depression. Suffering a chronic illness takes a toll on your emotions. Even more, battling the misconceptions of others surrounding lupus can wear on you, too.
Fortunately, you can turn that around with exercise. That’s because when you exercise, your energy level increases, and you get that feeling of accomplishment. So, your self-esteem rises. Then, your entire mood shifts.
Bonus- exercise has been shown to be a stress reducer. And, as you know, stress is a flare trigger. Bingo! Here’s another way in which exercise reduces the possibility of a flare.
I could go on and on about the reasons why you should want to have your own lupus exercise plan. But, let’s move on to things to consider when you are planning your lupus workout.
3. Talk To Your Doctor First
Talking to your doctor about anything lupus related has probably become habit to you, if you had lupus for a lengthy amount of time. Personally, the doctor’s office feels like my second home. I probably call my doctor more than I call my own mother.
Yet, it still needs to be said. Before you start any exercise program discuss it with your doctor.
You doctor knows your medical history. And, he or she will know what is best for you in regard to the type and intensity of the types of exercises you should be doing. Everyone’s experience with lupus is different, and your doctor will know the specifics of your case.
4. Low-Impact Activity Is Key
As to what types of exercise are ideal for lupus, most experts recommend 4 types of exercise. These types of exercises are meant to address the areas of the body commonly affected by lupus. These exercises include: stretching, muscle strengthening, aerobic exercises, and body awareness.
While stretching helps with range of motion, muscle strengthening can help provide support to your joints and reduce muscle pain (got to burn to feel good, right?). Aerobics helps the heart and lungs. Finally, body awareness, such as yoga or Tai Chi, allows your body to relax, relieve stress, and improve range of motion.
If that’s not enough, exercise releases endorphins, which improve your mood and fight pain.
Now, with that being said, you don’t need nor want to compete in a triathlon. You want to participate in low-impact activity. This is walking, swimming, or riding a bike. And, yes this even goes for men with lupus (I know you’re geared to want to do more, but you’ve got to think of what’s best for your health).
If you want to learn more about how lupus affects men, read my post– Can Men Have Lupus? An Insider’s Answer.
And, you want to start of with low intensity. As your body adjusts, you can increase the intensity using the 10% rule. That is, each week increase the intensity by 10%. For example, if you walked for 10 minutes this week, then you add 1 minute next week.
5. Know Your Body And Pay Attention To It
What if you wake up; and your joints are red, swollen, or feel hot? You should skip the activity that day. Along with exercise, your body needs rest.
Remember, overexercising can trigger a flare.
That’s why it’s important to know your limits. Listen to your body. If you start to feel pain, while exercising, stop what you’re doing.
Not only does your doctor know your medical history, but you know it, too. You know your pain levels, and you know your limits. Pay attention to these as you create a lupus exercise plan based upon the advice of your doctor and other experts.
6. Be Mindful Of The Sun
As a lupus sufferer, you know how bad the sun is for you. When exercising, you should do everything possible to limit your exposure.
First of all, if you can exercise indoors then that’s what I suggest you do. I know, you spend so much time indoors already. And, any moment you can spend outside feels like paradise.
That is- until you trigger a flare. My suggestion is to mix it up. Personally, I spend a little time on a treadmill inside. Then, in the evenings, I take a stroll once the sun is going down. Not only do I get fresh air while minimizing exposure, but I break up my exercise time so that I’m not doing too much at once.
And, of course, don’t forget your best friend- sunscreen. Do you ever feel like sunscreen is your second skin? I do, but I still need it, and so do you.
Yet, sunscreen is not enough. If you find yourself exercising outside, be sure to wear the proper clothing: a long sleeve shirt and pants. And, wear a hat.
Most importantly, pick a time other than peak sunlight hours- the afternoon. That’s when you soak in the most UV rays. And, that’s the time to avoid being out.
7. Keep A Journal
Think about- You’ve gone through all the work of talking to your doctor and creating a plan. Now, it’s time to follow the plan. How do you ensure that you stay on track?
You stay on track by keeping an exercise journal. With a journal, you see what you’ve done to accomplish your goals. You stay accountable this way.
What should you keep in your journal? Of course, you should log days, times, and types of exercises.
Is that enough?
No. You should also include how you felt before, during, and after exercising. This helps you listen to your body. You can also track the effect exercise is having in your body.
For example, if you see a pattern of being able to handle an exercise intensity for over a week, you can increase the intensity by 10%.
Remember, keeping track of information helps you manage your lupus. You doctor is going to ask about your activity level during your visits. You can bring your journal with you to aid the discussion.
Finally, journaling gives you a visual of your progress. You have written proof of achieving your exercise goals. You journal tells the story of you being active.
When you’re feeling low, look back over your exercise journal and realize that you are more than your lupus.
8. Exercise With A Buddy
Along with your journal, an exercise partner can help you be accountable. He/ she will push you to achieve your goals. They will give you the encouragement you need to keep on going.
You need a strong support network to attack your lupus. This includes someone cheering you on to be active.
Yet, he or she will also be able to tell you when you’re doing too much. Sometimes, you need that voice of reason telling you to back off. You exercise partner has a different perspective from you. They see you from the outside and can see you hurting.
Also, working out alone is a safety concern. If you have a partner, they can render first aid if you get hurt. Secondly, he or she will be available if you do trigger a flare.
Finally, exercising together provides you with social connections. Be honest, you probably already feel isolated enough because of lupus. Having someone to talk to about your lupus while you exercise just feels good.
It’s that feeling of acceptance and understanding. It’s that support you need to take your lupus on head-on.
Lupus and Exercise- It’s a Good Fit
You don’t have to be inactive because of lupus. Actually, the opposite is true. You need to be active because of lupus.
Exercise is good for lupus. Being active helps you in so many ways.
Ultimately, you being active may help cause your lupus to be inactive.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.
If you enjoyed it, please share with others. The more we educate about lupus, the better we can attack the disease.
If you have any questions concerning lupus and exercise, or you have a comment please leave it below. Let’s keep the discussion going.
Best of luck to you in battling lupus and wishing you better days ahead!