Embarking on a new exercise program can be a daunting task. Lack of exercise knowledge, unknown gym machines, a long history of sedentary habits and the fear of failure are all common and scary realities and emotions to deal with. Now imagine adding in a physical condition or disease to mix and envision how much scarier fitness can seem.
Despite additional obstacles and extra guidelines to abide by, exercise, in some form, is good for everyone – even those struggling with their overall health, a disease, or even wheel chair bound.
The following provides a snapshot (the tip of the iceberg of information) of how certain conditions can be managed, improved and taken into consideration so that everyone feels empowered to include exercise in their life.
MS is a progressive disorder that results in deterioration of the myelin sheath around spinal nerves. The disease affects each person differently, with some progressing rapidly to a wheel chair bound state and others with occasional flare ups.
When beginning a fitness program with MS, it is very important to be cleared by your doctor and to work with a professional, at least in the early stages. Exercise with MS can help the joints and muscles remain young and flexible, it can reduce the spasticity and stiffness of muscles, and improve cardiovascular endurance and energy. In addition, moving the body daily and appreciating what it is capable of doing can be very rewarding and mentally encouraging for MS patients.
The most popular forms of exercise for those living with MS are aquatic-based activities, light weights, stretching and cardio based on the capabilities of the individual. Those who are permanently in a wheel chair and have little use of their upper body have had success keeping their lungs clear by doing conscious breathing exercises.
Common symptoms of MS including absent sweat response, impaired balance, a tendency to overheat, early fatigue and tremors/in coordination all need to be factored into successful programming.
Arthritis comes in more than 100 forms, the most common being osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. The most common symptoms are joint pain, inability to move the joints normally and swelling.
Many believe that exercise and arthritis do not go hand in hand, but that perception is false. There are many benefits to regular exercise for those with arthritis, including:
- reduced joint pain and stiffness
- reduced inflammation
- stronger muscles around the joint to provide additional support
- improved overall health
- increased energy
- better sleep
Tai chi and yoga are very popular for those with arthritis as the movements are flowing and help ease the stiffness of the affected joints. Anxiety and stress exacerbate the symptoms of arthritis, so any relaxation exercise will be highly beneficial.
Aquatic exercise is also very popular with this group, even for those in a flare-up as water creates exercise intensity, but not impact or soreness. In addition to stretching exercise, strength and cardio based activities (physical activity that uses the large muscles of the body in rhythmic, continuous motions) should be included in a balanced exercise plan. The nature of these types of exercise will be largely determined by the fitness level of the individual and severity of the arthritis.
Type 2 Diabetes
For those with Type 2 Diabetes, a healthy lifestyle is key as even modest lifestyle changes (eating less fat and sugar, exercising two and a half hours per week and losing a moderate amount of weight) is known to cut the incidence of the disease by more than half among those at risk.
In a diabetic person the body loses its ability to regulate sugar levels in the blood, a condition that often leads to kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke and major circulatory problems. Type 2 Diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all cases of Diabetes and is the type that can be managed effectively in many cases just by altering lifestyle factors.
Those with diabetes who choose to become physically active need to be able to listen to their body and be able to tell when their sugar levels are fluctuating too much. Some will have a constant measure of their blood sugar available and some will not. Staying properly hydrated is also critical for this group.
Those with lifestyle-related Type 2 diabetes should consult a nutrition expert, someone to guide their exercise as well as seek lifestyle guidance (stress management, sleep habits, etc). A Personal Trainer might be critical for these individuals if they lack exercise knowledge or find themselves low in motivation or personal accountability. Knowing that positive lifestyle changes can essentially reverse this disease in many cases, it is imperative that suffers seek help as soon as possible.
Physical activity is necessary for everyone, especially those dealing with heart disease (assuming the permission from the treating doctor). In fact, physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease.
Coronary disease is characterized by deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the lining of arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
The benefits of exercise for this population include:
- controlled blood lipid abnormalities
- reduced risk of developing diabetes as well
- weight loss
- improved cardiac capacity
- reduced stress
- a decreased chance of a second heart attack if one has already occurred.
Exercise that brings the heart rate to an acceptable level (between 50-85% of max based on age and certain criteria) should be done for at least 30 minutes nearly every day of the week. Resistance training will also increase metabolism and will make the body stronger overall. Flexibility and relaxation exercise will help make the body more limber and will reduce stress, which is often a factor in high blood pressure and possible heart disease.
In all of the above cases it is wise to invest in some time with a professional Personal Trainer who can tailor an exercise program to your needs and physical capabilities. You can expect your overall health and vitality to improve quickly and dramatically with regular exercise and positive lifestyle changes. It is also reasonable to expect that regular, structured exercise will reduce symptoms of your disease, and in some cases, such as Type 2 Diabetes and early heart disease warnings, all but eliminate them.
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