Top Five Tips To Help You Increase Your Energy Through Exercise
When living with autoimmune disease, exercise should not be considered in a vacuum- we need to think of our overall stress health and then figure out where exercise fits into that big picture. We must start thinking about our overall balance of stress and connect it to how our bodies ebb and flow with our autoimmune disease symptoms, it can help us to understand the full scope of our bodies’ needs, which leads to creating a better balance in our entire picture of health.
When we hear the word “stress” it instantly has a negative connotation in our minds. However, some stress can have a positive effect and, of course, some negative stress is unavoidable. As people living with autoimmune disease we have to understand individual stressors and their cumulative effect on our healing. So- what could possibly be a positive stressor? Exercise! Exercise puts stress on the body to create change--change we are seeking from exercise like increased mobility and strength!
Exercise has also shown to elevate mood, reduce anxiety and depression, improve blood flow, and boost heart and lung health. Benefits of exercise continue by improving posture and balance which is very important as we age. The symptoms of autoimmune disease have been proven to improve with exercise when done properly.
This is the key- exercise must be done properly in order for us to reap the benefits. Here it comes back to exercise as a stressor. If we push too hard and subscribe to the “no pain no gain” exercise philosophy we often hear our symptoms will actually get worse. If we continue to push we may even end up in an exercise induced symptom flare. We must consider all forms of stress in our lives--physical and emotional--then approach how much exercise we can handle. I encourage you to start slow, slower than you think you need to and slower than you probably want to. This is where we will truly feel the benefits of exercise; slowly build strength and mobility and soon you’ll feel energized, not exhausted, by exercise. It is not one size fits all, and it is not a linear path forward; we must keep a close eye on our stress, fatigue and disease symptoms and constantly adjust both exercise and other stressors as possible.
But where to start? How to put this into action?
Here are the Autoimmune Strong Top Tips for Exercising Safely When Living With Autoimmune Disease:
Step 1: Brain Dump For Stress Awareness
Start by writing down all of the things that you know cause your body stress. Some typical ones are: lack of sleep, emotional relationships, a messy house, long demanding workdays, sitting in traffic, money issues, etc… Just making a list of everything that causes you stress can bring awareness to the reality of the situation. And while this may seem overwhelming and daunting, if you continue to take the steps forward that I am recommending, you will begin to see a reduction of stress over time, which will increase your health AND your ability to exercise!
Step 2: Make A Commitment To Exercise
Now that you have visibility of your stressors, the next step is to make a commitment to yourself to begin a consistent exercise routine- even if it’s just for a few minutes (or a few seconds) a day. This means that no matter what stressors life brings you- no matter what is on your brain dump list- that you are making a commitment to yourself to do something every day. This is habit building, and it will stay with you for life.
Step 3: Keep A Daily Journal
At the top, write out your commitment. For example- I will practice my abdominal bracing technique (a foundation of the Autoimmune Strong program) for 1 minute today. Then, journal about the successes or challenges you faced to accomplish this goal. Did you do it? Then celebrate it! Or did something stop you from doing it? Try to figure out what that thing is that’s getting in the way, and see what you can do to change it.
Step 4: Modify Your Exercise Routines Based on Stress Levels
Your body can only handle so much stress. Stress is the thing that aggravates autoimmune disease symptoms, so we must keep our stress in check! Exercise is a form of stress on the body, so you need to figure out where exercise fits in the big picture of your entire stress load. Having high stress in your life? Reduce your exercise. Keep doing it, but do less. One minute of standing on one leg (even if you are holding onto a wall) is still way more effective than doing nothing! And if it’s a lower stress time period for you, that’s great! You can incorporate a little more exercise into your life. It will fluctuate over time, and that’s okay.
Step 5: Make Sure to Include Rest and Recovery Days!
In order to keep your stress levels low, you need to incorporate rest days into your training. This will help your body recover faster and build the energy for those daily tasks. However, rest days can be a slippery slope. Some people take a rest day, and it becomes two rest days, then three, and then all of a sudden a week has gone by. So be intentional with your rest days. Make a plan for the next day, so you know you will return to your exercise. The rest days are an important part of your schedule- so consider them as part of your exercise routine and you will be less likely to let your exercise slide away…
Autoimmune Strong is built with this approach in mind. We work slowly through movements and progress through several levels of programming, built for bodies just like yours. But here I will reiterate again-this is not a linear path-exercise is a stressor on our bodies. Take time each day to consider the stress you’re experiencing and the level of stress a particular exercise will add. With these two factors in mind you can decide what you can handle for that day. Don’t get discouraged if the answer is the exercise you had planned is too much. Just scale back! Do part of a video or stick to some gentle movements you are familiar with. Even doing a few minutes (or seconds!) will serve your healing by continuing to build strength without experiencing an exercise induced flare.
Want to know even more? You can check out my previous posts on exercise intolerance here and exercise induced flare ups here. Also- check out the Autoimmune Strong website to get started with an exercise program designed for you and your body.