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Manage your chronic illness: Get physical!
It does a body good
Move it

Exercise your might
Exercise your might

As if you needed another excuse to exercise, try these on for (a smaller) size:

  • It turns your gray skies blue. Physical activity revs up brain chemicals, which means you’ll feel happier and more relaxed than before you took to the treadmill. Researchers also found that exercising aerobically at least 30 minutes three times a week reduced cognitive decline. Plus, it can help booster self-confidence!
  • You’ll catch better zzzs. Increasing your physical activity during the day can help you fall asleep faster and deeper. Try exercising no more than five or six hours before you go to bed, so you’re not too wired before you go to sleep. Much-needed shut-eye also translates into a more productive day when you wake up.
  • It keeps the doctor away. Aerobic activity can give a healthy boost to your immune system, warding off mild viral illnesses.
  • You’ll have fun doing it. Physical activity doesn’t have to mean looking at your watch as you walk on a treadmill in the gym. Try a dance class or take your grandchildren to the local playground and push them on the swings. What matters most is that you’re moving.

A super set
A super set

The two main types of physical activity that can help combat the symptoms of chronic illnesses are:

  • Aerobic exercise. Because it gets your muscles moving, hearts pumping and lungs working, aerobic exercise is good for most people. Aerobic exercise is broken down into two categories: those that slow bone loss by forcing your muscles to work against gravity (weight-bearing) like walking and jogging and those that don’t use gravity (nonweight-bearing) such as swimming and cycling, which are good for people who have arthritis and need to go easy on their joints.
  • Strength training. This activity increases your muscles’ mass, strength and efficiency. When you lift weights, you make your muscles work against the pounds—a concept called resistance. Strength training is good for people who have diabetes, cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Once you get your healthcare provider’s OK, slowly start an exercise regimen. Try walking for several minutes in the morning and evening. Add a few minutes to your walking time each day, gradually picking up the pace until you work up to the recommended 30 minutes a day at least three days a week.

Arthritis may make your joints ache. Lung disease may make it difficult to breathe. But the symptoms of these and other chronic illnesses don’t have to mean you can’t be active. Though it may seem like a contradiction, getting up and moving is one of the best ways to manage a chronic condition.

It does a body good

Some chronic conditions physical activity can help include:

  • Osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises, such as brisk walking, running, dancing and playing tennis, force the body to work against gravity, helping bones retain their mass. Combine those exercises with strength training, such as lifting weights. These can also help strengthen your core, which can help prevent falls, a major cause of fractures.
  • Diabetes. Exercise can help control blood sugar levels and make cells more responsive to insulin.
  • Heart disease. Regular aerobic exercise helps keep your heart muscle strong, your arteries clear, your blood pressure normal and your cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
  • Cancer. Moderate exercise can battle fatigue and reduce nausea, side effects of some cancer treatments. Exercise may also help alleviate depression, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • Lung disease. Chronic bronchitis or emphysema makes it difficult to breathe and forces your body to work harder to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. Exercise can counteract these symptoms by helping your lungs work more efficiently and increasing oxygen intake.
  • Arthritis. To keep joints healthy, you need to keep them moving. Exercise can increase muscle strength and flexibility, easing arthritic pain and joint stiffness.

Move it

Even though physical activity is beneficial to almost everyone, you should still talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program. He or she can recommend exercises that won’t aggravate your condition as well as design a program that won’t put too much stress on your body.