May is Lupus Awareness Month and as our tribute to this, we wanted to shed some light on ways people living with this auto-immune disease can get exercise and remain physically fit. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, more than 5 million people have a form of lupus, 90% of which are women. There are many symptoms that people may experience with lupus, such as pain, fatigue, hair loss, cognitive issues and physical impairments, so you can imagine that finding a means to stay physically fit can be a challenge for those struggling with this disease. However, the benefits of exercise for those struggling with lupus extend far beyond physical fitness, so it’s important to incorporate it into your daily routine when you have been diagnosed with this disease.
Exercise can help extend life expectancy and reduce the fatigue that comes along with lupus. On top of that, it is also beneficial to mental health, as it can help decrease depression and anxiety, which is common in those suffering from a chronic illness. Exercise can also keep healthy bones strong, improve sleep and reduce the risk of developing other diseases and conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and more. There are many forms of exercise that can be beneficial for those with lupus, but some science-backed fitness techniques stand out among the rest.
If you struggle with lupus, even the thought of exercising can seem daunting, but stretching exercises can be a great way to ease into a new fitness regimen. Stretching improves your joint range of motion and increases circulation, which can be helpful for those with an autoimmune disease that attacks your body like lupus. It’s a gentle way to prepare the body for movement, whether it be a workout or just your daily activities.
Gentle aerobic exercise can be extremely beneficial for improving quality of life for those struggling with lupus. About 50% of people with lupus experience adverse effects on the lungs and respiratory system, like inflammation and difficulty breathing, but many studies have shown that low-impact aerobic exercise, like the elliptical, aquatics and dance, can improve cardiovascular health, without amplifying arterial stiffness, inflammation or oxidatives stress in those with the disease.
Isometric exercise involves contracting a muscle or muscle group and holding that contraction without any additional movement in the surrounding joints and tendons. Holding a yoga pose or a seated leg extension are perfect examples of this. Isometric exercise can be a great option for those with lupus because it is gentle and easy on the joints, so it won’t aggravate or increase existing pain that people might have as a result of this autoimmune disease. In fact, studies have even shown isometrics to improve functional ability and decrease pain in those suffering from joint pain. Isometrics are also one of the safest ways for people with lupus to increase strength because they don’t put stress on bones or joints that might be weak or fragile. As an added benefit, isometrics are also a super convenient way to work out, as they can be completed almost anywhere and require little to no equipment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with lupus and are interested in incorporating isometrics into your fitness journey, the Activ5 can be a great tool to utilize. Paired with its companion training app, the Activ5 coaches you through short isometric exercises, customized to your specific training level. It also keeps track of data like heart rate, strength and progress over time, so you can be confident that your isometric training is working for you.
While the exercises listed above may be beneficial for those struggling with lupus, we always recommend consulting a medical professional first to find an exercise program that is appropriate for you.