Moving daily, when you have a chronic illness, is a monumental challenge. It can be done, though, I promise. Movement is critical to health. The first thing a doctor has a patient do after an injury, surgery, or significant illness is getting them up and walking. They want the patient to move. At first, it may be just a few steps to the chair then a walk down the hall.
There is a considerable difference between exercise and movement. Exercise is a type of movement that is structured, planned with a distinct goal; burn fat, build muscle, get stronger, or get faster. Movement is what you do while living. It is cleaning the house, walking to the store, working in the garden, or having sex. It is what scientists like to call non-exercise associated thermogenesis (NEAT).
It is this movement, NEAT, that I want to emphasize because it is what people disregard but is probably most important. Especially when you have a chronic illness. It is also a crucial component of total daily energy use.
Exercise vs Moving Daily
Here is an interesting fact, up until the 1960’s the only people who exercised were athletes. Everyone else just carried on with daily activities of daily living. By all accounts, there are more gyms, exercise videos, and structured exercise classes than ever before, and yet people are bigger and heavier than ever before.
I was fascinated with the show Biggest Loser. Everyone worked out so hard and for such long periods. It would be impossible to maintain that level of exercise and still hold down a full-time job, that is, unless you were a fitness instructor. Now that the show has been off the air for several years now you can go back and see that is exactly what the case was for most of the contestants. Many have gained their weight back or struggled to keep it off.
Moving with Chronic Illness
So what is my point? What you do has to be sustainable. It has to become part of your life. You should enjoy it and find benefit from it. More is not always better. Especially when someone has a chronic illness or pain. When a disease or pain becomes chronic, cortisol levels increase, making everything a little more complicated from weight loss to recovery. So the last thing you want to do is stress your body even more.
Find what works for you. I have tried so many different things, from hiring a trainer to physical therapy. I have so many injuries, though that “professionals” had to accommodate for, I had more frustration than help from them. So after a ton of trial and error, here are a few things I have found work for me.
- Swimming: It is the only time my body gets a break from, well, gravity! Swimming allows me to move while my body believes it is getting a break from the constant pressure on my joints. I recently found out our local university that offers free swim time to local residents.
- Do one thing at a time. I pick one day a week I do nothing but rest and do laundry. I make it my all-day project. I also make my bed, get dressed, and pick one room to clean each day. This may seem so small, but it honestly can have the most significant impact.
- Find a way to keep up hobbies. We have had to simplify our gardens but we have created a nice space on our patio for starting seeds so I can keep gardening.
- Get a pedometer find out what your average is and set a goal to increase it. Slow and steady wins the race here. It’s not about pace, it is just about doing a little more than you did before.
- When you are having a good day, make a point to take that 5-15 min leisurely walk. Focus on enjoying the scenery than worrying about distance or pace.
- Below are a few of the exercises I try to do every week. Some weeks it gets done once other weeks more often. You will notice none of them require pressure on joints and are done from a laying down positions.