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Exercise Benefits for People with Chronic Illnesses

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | May 30th, 2017

If you ask a doctor for advice about how to treat almost any condition, he or she is likely to say, “eat right and exercise,” as the first recommendation. Nutrition and fitness are indeed keys to recovering from and preventing many health problems–including managing chronic illnesses.


Diabetes is a chronic condition that can be helped and even reversed by exercise and healthy eating. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one of 10 diabetes patients that exercised were able to stop taking medication. Exercise lowers glucose levels in blood and helps build muscle, which prevents the body from storing excess glucose as fat.

The American Diabetes Association recommends “30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week.” Easier said than done, right?  The ADA also says, “If you haven’t been very active recently, you can start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day.” Phew!


It will surprise some to learn that exercise can also help people suffering from asthma. We tend to think that exercise might make asthma worse, but it doesn’t, at least not under the right conditions. Studies have found that asthmatics that exercise at least twenty minutes each day for three days per week experience fewer asthmatic symptoms than those that did not exercise. It is important to note that cold weather can exacerbate asthma, and it is recommended that patients move their exercise routine indoors during cold spells.


Exercise can also benefit people suffering from arthritis. Appropriate exercise loosens joints stiffened by arthritis, and consistent exercise over an extended period of time can ease movement, reduce pain, and improve mobility. Range of motion exercises and stretching can be the first steps to better health.

Heart Disease

It is well known that regular exercise can help improve your heart health, but recent studies have shown that interval training is often tolerated well in people with heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Psychological Benefits

In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, there are mental and psychological benefits as well. Exercise can improve your overall mood, help you sleep better, and help you control your weight and mobility. All of these factors make it easier to socialize, another mood boosting activity.

Consult Your Doctor

It is important to consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine. Potential benefits may be outweighed for patients with other risk factors; or exercises may need to be modified to account for individual patients. You might be advised to start with low-impact exercises such as walking and gentle stretching, for example. This is especially the case if you haven’t been active for a while. If beginning to exercise after a prolonged break, start slowly and build up gradually. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider what kind of exercises are appropriate, and what kind of goals you can safely set to measure your progress.

Listen to Your Body

Of course, listen to your body as well. If you attempt to exercise and experience significant pain, stop and call your doctor. “No pain, no gain,” is a slogan that can perhaps work for athletes training for extreme sports, but it is not an appropriate approach for people dealing with chronic illnesses.

It is also important to stay positive. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do, and remember that doing something, even a little bit, is usually better for your body and your mind than doing nothing.

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