The human body was meant to move, and when it doesn't, things break down. This is a fundamental concept that applies to each and every one of us.
However, those of us struggling with chronic pain know that moving our bodies can be challenging, uncomfortable, and downright painful.
This creates an unhappy cascade of events- our bodies hurt, then we try to move and our bodies just hurt more, so eventually we stop moving- letting our chronic pain symptoms take over.
For those of us struggling with autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, lyme disease, and other types of chronic pain, this is our reality. Many people feel like they have lost control over their own bodies, which leaves them feeling helpless and depressed.
Hi, I’m Andrea. This is how I felt 5 years ago, when my body was overcome with my symptoms from hashimotos, celiac and fibromyalgia. I was incapable of movement- my body hurt all the time, and even the smallest physical requirements, like climbing stairs, felt like a daunting challenge.
I listened to all of the so-called experts- who told me to just push myself to exercise- that I couldn’t get better without hard work in the gym- so I did. No pain no gain, right?
WRONG! This only made things worse. Some days I would exercise and then get so sick I couldn’t get out of bed for days.
And the worst part was that nobody could explain to me what was happening to my body. Luckily, I knew that this wasn’t normal, and so I started to do my own research. And here is what I learned:
My autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia symptoms were being aggravated by my exercise habits.
Whaaaat???? I was blown away! But exercise is good for us!!! Or so I thought.
Turns out that exercise is good for us, but not all exercise is created equal for people with chronic pain and chronic illness.
Let me break this down for you with a little more detail.
Three Things You Never Knew about Exercise and Chronic Pain
1. Proper exercise can help you manage your chronic pain and disease.
Sitting on the couch may feel like it is all you can do when you experience chronic pain, but in fact, it is actually bad for your health.
Research has demonstrated that movement and exercise is extremely beneficial for people with autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and other chronic pain or chronic fatigue disorders.
Some of the proven benefits include enhanced overall physical and mental health, reduced anxiety and depression, increased energy levels, decreased fatigue, improved sleep, reduction in pain, improvement in mood, increased or restored range of joint motion, even in individuals with chronic arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, increased muscular strength and endurance, even in individuals with muscular or joint degeneration and a general reduction in overall symptoms.
2. However, not all exercise is created equal.
Many types of exercise can be too much for people struggling with autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and other chronic pain or chronic fatigue disorders.
Research has demonstrated that physical and psychological stress can aggravate the symptoms of an autoimmune disorder and other such chronic conditions.
Exercise produces elevated cortisol levels, which causes stress on the body. This means that the elevated stress on the body caused by exercise actually can be the cause of an immune system attack or a flare-up of pain within the body.
I call this the “exercise to flare-up cycle.” The wrong kind of movement program can stimulate too much stress on the body, and make us feel worse rather than better.
3. Not all exercise elevates stress, so it is important to find that exercise sweet spot.
Frequency, intensity and duration are important factors when designing a workout program for people with chronic pain and illness.
Frequency is defined as how often one moves their body. Intensity points to how challenging the movements are. In other words, how hard your body has to work to complete the movement requirements of the exercise. Duration is defined as the length of time of the workout.
For people living with chronic pain, it is important to start slow with all three factors, and build up frequency, intensity and duration over time. This helps teach the body how to adapt to movement challenges and how to move without elevating cortisol or aggravating disease symptoms.
If done right, a proper exercise program will increase your strength slowly over time, and help you decrease your physical pain, and regain energy and vitality.
There is nothing magic about this exercise strategy I just shared.
To exercise properly for your body, you just need a fitness program designed with this strategy in mind, a willingness to commit to that program with consistency over time, and lot of patience.
Autoimmune Strong is a program specifically designed with these factors in mind.
Autoimmune Strong is designed and developed by me, Andrea, a personal trainer who also struggles with chronic disease and pain.
I wanted to create a workout program that was easy to use, required little to no equipment, and most importantly, would allow my body to get stronger without pain.
The Autoimmune Strong workouts have been developed to take into account the three factors of frequency, intensity, and duration, and have been designed to start gentle and easy, and progress over time as you get stronger.
It’s a self-paced program, so you can go at your own speed.
Autoimmune Strong is designed to provide that sweet spot of exercise that gets you off the couch, gets you moving, in a way that is gentle and just right for your body.
For just $19.99 a month, you get access to a private online membership portal that holds all the content you need to become Autoimmune Strong. This includes:
- A systematic, step by step program that guides you every step of the way
- An extensive video library of short instructional exercise videos, designed to gentle teach you just a few exercises at a time
- Companion workout videos that combine the exercises from the instructional videos into manageable workout routines that you can do anytime, anywhere.
- A food guide e-book that will answer your questions about healthy nutrition for your body
- Access to an online Autoimmune Strong support network of other people going through the same struggle as you
- And many other special features!
You can get strong without crushing yourself in the process.
Exercise can be healthy and nourishing to the body.
I know it works because it worked for me. And it has worked for countless others as well.
Here are examples of what some Autoimmune Strong members have to say:
"Autoimmune Strong is making a world of difference in my life...
The self-paced program is easy to follow and easy to customize to your needs. Some of the exercises seem so easy and simple you will question why you are doing them. Believe me when I say you will know the next day! And you will be glad you listened when Andrea told you not to push yourself.
Before Autoimmune Strong there were places on my body I could not tolerate being touched they hurt so much. Today most of those places are gone and the touch of my husband's hand on my back doesn't bring agony. The only soreness I feel these days is the good healthy soreness of working my muscles. And that, my friends, is an amazing feeling. I encourage you to give this program a try. I honestly do not think you will be disappointed."
- Jennifer D.
"I am 24 years old and have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Major Clinical Depression, and Anxiety. Doctors had constantly told me to exercise but with my depression and anxiety I hated going to the gym. Everyone else around me was so fit while I was barely able to walk normally.
One day I came across Autoimmune Strong and it gave me hope that one day I would be strong enough to get back to dancing the night away at a party. It was difficult at first to do the program every week but now that a buddy system was introduced it's been great having my buddy remind me to do the workouts. It's nice to know that if she can do it, I can do it! Some days I do feel pain but I try not to over push myself and try to keep in mind Andrea's words to do things at my own pace.
That's why I love this program, it's a program created for people like me. Usually programs are too hard for me to keep up physically but with this, I feel I can go at my own pace and it's not too harsh on the body. I have a long way to go but I know I can get to where I want to be. Thank you Andrea for this program and for being so closely involved with the Autoimmune Community!"
I cried after watching the first video, because I have struggled so much with finding a movement specialist who understands how autoimmune illness works. To hear you talk about your journey, and to hear that you not only feel better, but actually feel healthy and strong and can now do "normal" exercise was a relief and an inspiration.
I'm doing great... I'm really excited. I'm a go getter and an over-doer, but I've also been incredibly ill for almost three years. So it has been a challenge for me to accept my limitations and not just charge ahead. But I stuck with [the program as recommended] and accepted that my abs and pelvic floor were weak and needed time to strengthen, and they are getting stronger every day. Thank you for creating this program.
I started Autoimmune Strong after my immunologist said that it’s been shown that a graded exercise program really helps people with Chronic Fatigue.
I’ve also been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and was feeling extra tired (and unfit). I needed something that didn’t cause a flare-up, was self-paced, affordable and I could do from home. This course fitted all those requirements. I’ve gone slowly with it at my own pace, but have already reached my first goal: to be able to do my housework! I’m feeling fitter and stronger than I have for years and have had no flare-ups from the program. People have also noticed that I am standing straighter and taller! Andrea is warm and bubbly and understanding and I find her instructional videos are easy to follow. I’m really grateful to have found this program having tried and failed at other programs.
I highly recommend this program to anyone with a chronic illness who has developed avoidance of certain activities for fear of fatigue and injury!
My main health concern is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which causes me to get fatigued and injured easily during most types of exercise, not to mention daily activities that most people take for granted, like carrying groceries, buckling my seat belt and typing on the computer.
Managing my symptoms requires good conditioning, so I've been on the lookout for a long time for an exercise program... I got immediately excited about Autoimmune Strong when I first heard about it because it is gentle and incremental and explains how to build strength while protecting the body.
I find [the videos] incredibly helpful. I can go through the exercises on my mat as a routine and apply the concepts while I am walking, sitting or washing dishes. I do feel more confident in going about my daily activities since I started, and feel like my arms and legs are having to work less because I'm more able to control my core and my posture. I love the foot and ankle exercises too, and feel less vulnerable to injury while taking my outdoor walks.