Having a chronic health condition may make you apprehensive about exercise. You might wonder if exercise is safe and, if it is, how often and how intensely you can do it.
The good news is that exercise is safe for most people with chronic illnesses and can provide important health benefits. People living with heart disease, diabetes, asthma, back/joint pain, and even cognitive impairment can gain something from adopting an exercise routine.
Nearly all aerobic exercise can improve heart health and is safe for people with heart disease. High-intensity interval training, where you work in high intensity for short bursts in between low-intensity exercise, is likely safe. However, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about the specifics.
Strength training with weights or other forms of resistance can improve muscle strength and endurance, make it easier to do daily activities, slow disease-related declines in strength, as well as provide stability and mobility in joints.
Flexibility exercises can help improve mobility and range of motion to help optimize joint function and balance.
Exercise likely has benefits for people with the following conditions:
Heart Disease: Regular exercise is associated with improved heart health, lower blood pressure, and better circulation.
Diabetes: Regular exercise can allow insulin to reduce blood sugar by improving glucose metabolism more effectively.
Asthma: Evidence suggests that exercise may help control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Back Pain: Regular low-impact aerobic exercise can boost strength and endurance and improve muscle function. Abdominal and back strength training (core) may help reduce pain by strengthening muscles around the spine.
Arthritis: Exercise may help reduce pain and stiffness and boost strength and functionality in affected joints.
Dementia: There is evidence to indicate that exercise can improve cognition in people with dementia and that regular activity may lower the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.
In general, try to get 30 minutes of exercise daily, alternating between strength days and aerobic days.
There may be certain things you’ll need to monitor, like blood sugar, before, during, and after exercise. Exercise will lower blood sugar, so this is very important before exercise. People with arthritis may want to take a warm shower before exercise.
Exercise can help with chronic disease and be very helpful if done correctly. Speak to your doctor before beginning a routine to help you understand your limitations and capabilities.