Various types of physical activity not only promote general health in people with lupus, but can decrease fatigue and help manage a variety of other lupus symptoms. Aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy and burns calories to main a healthy weight. Resistance training such as weight-lifting builds muscle strength and healthy bones as well as making you less prone to injury and quicker to recover from injuries. Stretching activities such as yoga can improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion as well as relaxing your muscles and joints. Gentle martial arts such as tai chi or qi gong (pronounced chee gong) can improve balance and posture and promote deep breathing and relaxation. Any exercise can lessen symptoms of fatigue and depression and provide social interaction.
Fatigue, pain, joint stiffness and the weight gain often associated with corticosteroids lead many people with lupus to give up on exercise and become increasingly sedentary. However, lack of physical activity can exacerbate symptoms and contribute to the development of osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.
What does it involve?
Always check with your doctor before beginning new exercise regimen. It is also a good idea to consult a physical therapist for help in determining a customized exercise plan that will be safe and beneficial for you.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Always begin your workout session with a gradual warm-up and take time to cool down afterward. This will help prevent sore or pulled muscles. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine.
It is important to choose a type of exercise you will enjoy. Consider joining a class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects.
Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Dancing, walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, or swimming can all provide effective exercise for your heart and lungs.
Resistance training such as lifting weights can be done seated, and it can involve as light a weight as you are comfortable lifting. Even small amounts of weight or resistance provide benefits.
Whatever type of activity you prefer, you may find it easier to do in the water. Because your body feels lighter and more buoyant, you may find it may be easier to lift weights or do cardiovascular exercises. You may also feel more flexible, making it less difficult to stretch. Water also provides some natural resistance to movement, increasing the benefits of even very gentle movements.
Yoga consists of moving your body into an array of different positions that provide stretching and various levels of challenge for strength, flexibility and balance. There are many types of yoga and many different teaching styles. The right yoga class can provide many benefits for those with lupus. You may need to ask several questions before finding an appropriate class and an experienced teacher. If you use a wheelchair or walker, consider a yoga class for older people or people with physical disabilities. Many yoga poses can be done while seated.
Gentle martial arts such as tai chi and qi gong consist of slow, gentle movements and deep breathing. They are popular exercises for the elderly in China, and they can be done while seated.
Be creative. Even activities such as gardening and walking a pet can help you stay active and healthy.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning an exercise regimen. Focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. If you experience new or worse lupus symptoms, adjust your workout program to keep it safe and rewarding.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best physical and psychological condition. A regular exercise regimen can reduce fatigue, increase strength, promote healthy weight, stave off heart disease and diabetes, and improve your mood and self-esteem. It can help you avoid injury and recover more quickly.
In 2000, a pilot study tested 10 people with lupus before and after a regimen of either aerobic or strengthening exercises. Both types of exercise were shown to improve levels of fatigue, muscle strength, cardiovascular health, and ability to function.
Two Brazilian studies in 2012 indicate important benefits from exercise in those with lupus. The first study followed people with lupus through a six-month exercise program. Results of the study showed that those who exercised lowered the risk for heart disease by improving the health of blood vessels. The second study, which included a small number of people with lupus, tested the levels of certain inflammatory molecules in the body before and after lupus. Exercise did not increase the levels of these substances, proving that exercise does not increase inflammation in people with lupus.
A 2008 study showed that even 20 minutes of physical activity each week can improve mental health.
Some lupus symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, pain, and depression can make it difficult to stay motivated to keep up with exercise. Side effects of medication such as weight gain and nausea can also interfere.
If you exercise too hard, you may feel more pain than usual for a day or two afterwards. This is a sign that you should take it a little easier next time. If one type of exercise does not work for you, consider trying another.