Do you struggle to maintain an exercise routine due to pain or lack of energy? I do. Here are some tips for gentle exercise to help get you moving without being hard on your body.
Struggling with exercise while battling illness?
When it comes to exercise, I often cringe just at the thought, due to joint discomfort, lack of energy and the muscle pain that happen during activity. My thoughts of exercising often end right there. “Nope, definitely not” is where my mind goes, and that is the end of it.
The idea of endurance or weight-training exercises just sends my body into stress overload. Thinking about the additional discomfort on my joints and the fatigue that would follow are too off-putting.
But exercise doesn’t need to be filled with repetative movements that physically hurt our bodies, like running on a treadmill or lifting heavy weights.
There are lots of options out there for moving your body, and whether they traditionally fall into the “exercise” category is really irrelevant. As long as we get our bodies moving, we are helping them to function more optimally.
Movement of any kind is necessary for so many reasons, especially when it comes to healing from illness and reducing pain. Some benefits include:
- Improved circulation due to increased blood flow
- Sweating and increased lymphatic flow, which helps with detoxification
- Stress reduction (read more about that here!)
- Improved happiness. Yes, you read that right!
- Better body image and confidence
- Better sleep, as long as you don’t exercise right before bed
Gentle exercise ideas that anyone can try
For those of you who don’t even know where to begin with all of this, it’s first a good idea to think about what your body can handle, and see what kind of activities fall into that category.
For me, my joint pain is much less when I stick to walking, whereas activities like running, squatting or jumping hurt my knees less. Also, the idea of high intensity cardio just gives me straight-up anxiety.
A good place to start is asking yourself the following questions. What kind of pain do I have? Is it upper body pain, lower body pain, etc? Am I prone to any injuries in particular, or afriad of injuring myself in a specific way? Keep these answers in mind as you browse the following list of ideas:
- Go for a walk or a hike, especially in a park or a nature setting where you can listen to the birds, experience beautiful landscapes, etc.
- Go swimming, which is much kinder to our joints than other forms of exercise. However, be mindful of the effects of chlorine and bromine on the body, if you choose to go to a pool rather than a lake.
- Try tai chi or qi gong, which both involve gentle movements that usually have a low impact on joints and other bodily pains.
- Yoga is great as well, although I have mixed experience with this, depending on the type. Certain poses can be hard on joints or achey regions of the body, as can the length that the pose is held for. Don’t push yourself too hard, if a particular pose hurts, avoid it. There is also hot yoga and power yoga, which could be too much for someone just starting out.
- Stretching, which when done properly, feels really great. Just be careful when it comes to painful parts of your body, you definitely don’t want to overdo it.
- Dancing to your favorite music. If you’re afraid of what people will think, do it while you are alone, it can also be a great form of stress relief!
- Riding your bike is also a great way to gently exercise, as long as knee pain isn’t your main problem. Just make sure the bike is adjusted properly, so you don’t end up injuring yourself.
Not sure where to begin out of this whole list? Just pick one! Most of them are completely free, and Youtube can be a great place to search for instructional videos for yoga, tai chi and stretching.
If you think something like riding your bike or going for a hike will be too stressful on your joints, try some seated stretches, or go for a quick swim. Start wherever you feel comfortable, and you can always change it up, or alternate days to get some variety.
Make it a routine
Also, I suggest starting an exercise routine, and giving one of these forms of exercise at least a few weeks, where you exercise 3-4 times a week. If you don’t set up a routine, it’s so easy to lose motivation, especially in the first week or so.
The first few times you get out there and move more than you have before, you are bound to feel a bit worse afterwards. Muscle recovery, increased fatigue, it can all be taxing on your system.
If it becomes too much, take down the intensity or frequency until you’ve found a sustainable level for you as an individual. Even if that is just 5 minutes 1-2 times a week. Stick with that until you feel able to increase by a few minutes. Before you know it, you will have doubled your time and are starting to feel stronger and healthier.
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