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Chronic Illness and Fitness: Tips on How to Stay Fit

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Running. It has always been one of my greatest pleasures. Not in a competitive way, no, always alone, outside, with the wind hitting my face. Running has always been my preferred form of meditation. Like all things I most cherish, I kept running to myself and did it as a past-time. For me, the serenity I received from it would be tainted if I were to run competitively in marathons, or in track or cross country when I was in school. I always felt it was crucial to keep running from becoming a chore, or an act done solely for a gold medal. So, imagine my surprise the day I rolled out of bed, stood up to brush my teeth, and fell to the ground, unable to move. And then the day I brought my first wheelchair home. When I reached remission from Lyme disease, I started running daily again.

If you are ill, it is crucial to stay fit, even when you do not feel like moving a muscle. I found a fascinating article in "Neurology Now" detailing ways disabled people can exercise. Naturally, it sparked my curiosity, and I began reading more articles online regarding the subject. Of course, any disabled person must take precautions before exercising. To exercise correctly and successfully while disabled, it is best to talk to your health care professional about your plans beforehand. He or she will not only be able to inform you if the exercise you are intending to do is safe for someone with your disorder, but they may be able to inform you of exercises designed for your specific illness. In the mean time, here are some additional tips for you to consider, situation depending:

  • Get a physical trainer. He or she will ensure you exercise properly without harming yourself.
  • Consider water aerobics, which are especially helpful if you suffer from spinal or nerve problems, or if you have limited mobility in your limbs. The buoyancy of the water promotes a gravity eliminated environment, which helps improve movement of problematic limbs.
  • Find out if there are any disabled sports teams your area. Chances are, there are. And chances are, being a part of a team of others who are disabled will empower you by reminding you that you are not alone.
  • Try strength resistance training with a strength resistance belt.
  • Yoga! Yoga is beneficial for just about everyone, including you. Can't get out of your wheelchair? No worries, there are plenty of "chair yoga" workout videos circulating on Youtube.

Most importantly, though, do not focus on your disability. Be kind to yourself. Rather than brooding about the things you can't do, be happy about the things you can do. Be proud of yourself each time you make an effort to exercise. Even if you were only able to do a small amount, you at least did all you could; and that is something to be proud of. Also, check out organizations such as the American Association of Adapted Sports at adaptedsports.org or the Disabled Sports USA at disabledsportsusa.org. Their websites may further assist you in developing your exercise routine. And, remember, have fun. Working out does not have to be a chore, if you can remind yourself it is a privilege.

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