Exercise is good for everyone, but it can do so much more for someone who suffers from a chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma. Your doctor should always be the first person to consult when it comes to exercise, but usually with chronic disease, it may be even more important to stretch and move. Although exercise cannot cure your condition, it can help improve the quality of your life in more than one way.
A small amount of exercise is, in most cases, better than none. Your doctor can establish a safe level of activity for you, which will depend on your health, the stage of the disease and your abilities. The benefits include weight control, improved mood and mental health, bone and muscle strengthening and even an improvement in your condition.
Recent studies have shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but can also improve how well you function and the quality of your life. In cancer patients, too much rest can lead to a gradual loss of body function, muscle weakness and a reduced range of motion. Your ability to exercise will be affected by the type and stage of the cancer and the treatment for it, as well as your stamina, strength and fitness level.
Generally speaking, if you were sedentary before you started undergoing the cancer treatment, it’s best to start with a short, low-intensity activity, such as walking slowly for a short period of time. If you exercised before you started doing the treatment, you might need to exercise less than usual or at a lower intensity, based on how your body is responding. Make sure to speak to your doctor. He or she can help you better understand what you can or can’t do, especially if the treatments can affect your lungs, heart or if you are at risk for lung or heart disease.
It’s no secret that regular exercise can help improve your heart health. Being active does not only that, but also lowers your blood pressure, burns off the stress and helps keep your weight in check. Recent studies have shown that interval training, which alternates high- and low-intensity activity, is tolerated well by those who suffer from heart disease. Talk to your doctor about how much exercise you can do and how often, what type of activities you can try or should avoid and, most importantly, what warning signs you need to watch for while exercising.
Patients with diabetes are often encouraged to exercise regularly in order to reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease and for better blood sugar level control. The reason for that is because working muscles use more glucose than resting muscles.
According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, regular exercise for adults is defined as at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on at least two days every week. Moderate intensity aerobic activities include fast-paced walking, light jogging, bike riding and water aerobics.
Talk to your doctor about all the precautions you should take while exercising. For example, if you’re on blood sugar lowering medication, hypoglycemia can occur if you eat to little carbohydrate relative to exercise or if you take too much medication relative to exercise.
While you may worry that exercising could harm your joints and cause more pain, research has shown that patients suffering from arthritis can and should exercise. Exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment when it comes to reducing pain and improving movement. Aquatic exercises are especially beneficial to you, because water helps relieve the pressure of the body’s weight on the affected joints. However, flexibility exercises, such as stretching, are also recommended, as they help improve your range of motion.
Studies have concluded that overall, people with asthma tolerate exercise well, with no worsening of the symptoms after exercise. Swimming is ideal for asthmatics, as breathing in highly humidified and warm air keeps attacks at bay. However, beware of pools with excessive chlorine, as this chemical can irritate your airways. If you can smell it in the air, it’s too much. Other activities that have been deemed beneficial for asthmatics are yoga, thanks to its breathing exercises, and walking. Research has shown that walking three times a week for 12 weeks can improve asthma control and fitness level without provoking an attack.
This is how regular exercise can prove to be especially beneficial for those struggling with chronic diseases. Remember, however, to always consult with your doctor before undertaking any exercise, as he or she alone can determine what level of activity you can manage.
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