MoveWell Health and Fitness


Fitness Training for Chronic Conditions

Those people who are unfortunate enough to be burdened with chronic illnesses may struggle to exercise for a variety of reasons, not least of them the mental fortitude and determination it takes to move around when you don’t feel good or experience pain. Yet, despite the challenges and discomfort, health and fitness are not unachievable concepts for chronic sufferers. This article, based on the wealth of experience and knowledge of the 

Movewell Health and Fitness team will offer some guidance and tips that allow individuals with health issues to improve their health through movement and exercise, no matter how gentle. 

Is exercise beneficial for chronic illness sufferers?

First, the elephant in the room is whether exercise benefits chronic illness sufferers. The short answer is YES. However it is impossible to make blanket statements that apply equally to all, as people will have varying levels of mobility, pain, and other contributing factors. With that we do know for most in the general population, exercise does help reduce the onset of chronic health issues commonly associated with aging such as osteoporosis, heart disease, adult onset type 2 diabetes and does improve bone health and strength.  What it is safe to say, however, is that exercise is proven to have the following benefits:

  • Elevated mood (via endorphin release).
  • Proven to aid the mental outlook of long-term sufferers who experience side effects like depression, insomnia, and anxiety
  • Boosted immune system
  • Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased mobility in joints
  • Improved heart health
  • Sharpened cognitive function

Risks of exercise

While the positive effects of even the lightest exercise can be palpable, it is remiss to suggest that everybody suffering from a chronic illness start exercising immediately. Running the idea past your doctor or specialist and getting their opinion is essential. They are unlikely to object, but there may be complicating factors like inflammation that preclude certain types of exercise, and it is crucial to be armed with all the best information before proceeding. 

Where to begin?

Before you exercise, it is vital to think about your exact situation and what is feasible to achieve. Consider your fitness, mobility, and strength levels and what movements they will allow. For example—a lot of arm work will be useful if confined to a seated position. A list of appropriately gentle exercises can be found below, but remember to get your doctor’s approval before starting any of them. 

Start slowly

The last thing we want is a sudden bout of activity to cause dizziness, nausea, or weakness as the body rebels at this new movement. A companion nearby is advisable, and easing into the exercises is crucial. Nobody starts at full power and expects to maintain those levels, so take your time and find your comfort zone. It may be possible to push yourself later, but day one is not that moment. Progress may seem painfully slow initially, but it will come with perseverance and patience. 

Expect the unexpected

As your body adjusts to the new regime, it is hard to predict exactly what might happen, so stay alert, assess how you feel each day, and be flexible regarding your exercise routine. Pay close attention to which exercises diminish pain and vice versa. Focus on those that motivate you rather than make you groan to think about. When energy levels drop, revert to more accessible versions, and if pain or swelling occurs, change them altogether. This is a learning process as much as a physical one, and it will take time to find what works best for you. 

Have fun

Enjoyment is a huge factor in the positive effects of any exercise, and it is no good if your chosen form makes you miserable. Find and exploit your sweet spot, but be prepared to change if it causes problems. Enjoyable exercise is one of the strongest possible motivators that help people stick to regular workout schedules.

Hire a professional trainer

A qualified health and fitness coach can be a game-changer if affordable, helping you to set achievable goals, create a workout program, and execute proper form. Alternatively, many excellent apps for smartphones and handheld devices can perform a similar role but may need to be adjusted for impaired people. 

Gentle forms of exercise to try

  • Walking
  • Easy yoga classes
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • High-rep, low weight lifting
  • Calisthenics (using the body’s weight and strength as resistance)
  • Swimming

Contact us

We hope this article has given you some helpful information and the impetus to start an exercise regime of your own; if you have any questions or comments, please direct them to us. We will happily address them and discuss the fitness sessions at our locations that may interest and assist chronic sufferers.