When you live with a chronic disease, it means dealing with an ever-present stream of stressors that other people don’t even think about, like regular doctor’s appointments, hard-to-handle symptoms, and keeping track of daily meds. Throw the pressures of everyday life on top of that, and it can quickly become super overwhelming.
While every disease is different, doctors often advise patients with chronic conditions to stay physically active, since movement can help control symptoms and ease the stress that stems from being sick.
But a regular exercise habit can be difficult for anyone — especially if you already have an underlying condition to worry about. So we talked to three women living with different chronic illnesses on how they keep moving, despite the challenges that often get in the way.
For people with chronic illnesses, exercise can help manage symptoms and improve their quality of life. But starting and sticking to a regular workout routine can be difficult. Here, three women share how they stay active despite the challenges that come with their chronic diseases.
1. Get creative with your workouts
If you have a chronic illness, you might have to get a little more creative with your workouts than the average person. That’s because certain activities might not be possible or advised given your condition.
For example, Rachel Miller, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2016, used to love running. But now, she has to find other ways to get her cardio in since MS can cause problems with balance and coordination.
“Now I do a lot of swimming and elliptical,” Miller says. “I mix it up so my body doesn’t get used to one thing.”
Miller also likes to take fitness classes that are lower impact, like Pilates or barre. And if she ever feels unmotivated to work out, she tries to remember why she started in the first place.
“When I’m feeling down, I try to remember how good I feel after a workout,” Miller says. “That usually gets me going again.”
2. Make time for your workouts
It can be tough enough to find time for a regular workout when you don’t have a chronic illness. But when you do have a health condition to manage, it can feel downright impossible.
But if you want to stay healthy and keep your disease under control, finding time for regular exercise is key.
“I used to let my busy schedule get in the way of working out, but I’ve learned that if I don’t make time for myself, no one else will,” says Stephanie Cagle, who has lupus.
Cagle likes to wake up early before her kids get up and work out for an hour or so. She also tries to squeeze in a quick workout during her lunch break or after they go to bed at night.
3. Find a support system
When you have a chronic illness, it can be really helpful to have a support system in place. This could be a friend, family member, or even an online community of people who understand what you’re going through.
This was especially true for Catie Miller, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was just 16 years old. A few years after her diagnosis, she started an Instagram account called “Chronic Babe” to connect with other young adults living with chronic illnesses.
“I wanted to create a space where we could all share our stories and connect,” Miller says. “It’s been so helpful for me to see that I’m not alone in this.”
If you don’t have a chronic illness, it can be hard to understand what it’s like to live with one. But by connecting with others who are going through the same thing, you can find support and understanding. And that can make all the difference when it comes to staying active and healthy.
All About On Fire Fitness & Physical Therapy
On Fire Fitness & Physical Therapy has one mission: promoting fitness, health and lifestyle changes we all need to stay happy and healthy well into our senior years. Starting small, focusing on one behavior at a time and support from others can help you achieve your exercise or other health-related goals. Making a lifestyle change can be challenging, especially when you want to transform many things at once. But we know, the hardest step in climbing to the top of a mountain is the first one.
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