If you’ve been reading regularly, you already probably know that May is Physical Activity and Sports Month. Many people with chronic disease, however, may not be aware of how they can exercise safely—or, even why they should. While you should always consult with your doctor before altering your physical activity program, unless your doctor has said that you cannot participate in physical activity, then you should be!
What can you do to get started?
- Ensure it is safe for you to exercise. Depending on your medical needs, there might be changes your doctor will want to make before you start changing your activity level. For example, people with diabetes on insulin may need to ensure their blood glucose is in a specific range, have a snack, or change their insulin doses for activity; people with asthma or COPD may need to take an inhaler before exercise, or engage in a prolonged warm-up. These are just a couple of examples: your condition and your needs may vary!
- Pick an activity that is fun. Physical activity doesn’t need to mean going to a gym and lifting weights unless that’s what you like! Going to a playground with your kids (and not just sitting on the bench!), learning a “lifelong-sport” like tennis or golf, taking dance—or trying Zumba!—or joining a sports team might work for you. You might also enjoy trying “alternative” type activities like rock climbing or high ropes!
- Learn about your condition. Regular exercise can help keep your body weight regular, your digestive system functioning properly, improve insulin sensitivity, keep your cholesterol in check, help you sleep, and more. These things might be even more important if you live with chronic disease. The more you know about your disease, the more informed decision you can make regarding the importance of exercise, and precautions you may need to take.
- If you don’t know where to start there are lots of great resources online and books to read to help you out. Because each disease has specific needs, it’s impossible to list everything here! You can also consult a physical therapist, sports medicine doctor, or professional educator (ie. Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified Asthma Educator, Certified Respiratory Educator, or Nurse Practitioner) in your area for personalized advice.
- Tell people around you what you might need. If you have a medical condition that may be impacted by exercise, telling those around you what might happen and what you might need can help. It’s far less scary for them if they know what’s going on… than if they don’t and don’t know what to do! If you train alone, wearing a medical ID bracelet identifying your chronic disease is especially important, but Burton the Shop Pup recommends you keep your medical ID on at work, workout and play to stay safe—just like him :].
- Find training partners—virtual or in your neighborhood—living with your condition. It can be helpful to use them to help problem solve, but also to keep you motivated! If you’re seeking a virtual partner and having trouble finding one, reach out in the comments with your condition, and we’ll do our best to connect with you!
Whether you need resources, or just want to say hi and let us know what active choices you’re making this week, leave a comment—Burton, Jon and I love to hear from you!