I have always been an extremely active person and participated in a lot of sport at school. When I left school, I started going to gym and doing Weight Training and Aerobics, which I loved, and I become an Aerobics Instructor part time when I was younger. My favorite pastime was to do Aerobic classes and Step classes, the higher impact they were, the more I loved them. I was still doing the aerobics and step classes when I was diagnosed with Lupus, and I had been struggling with pain in my shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands, which my doctor originally thought was due to my gym training. However, once I was diagnosed with Lupus, I realized that I would have to change the type of exercise I was doing as I could not manage heavy weights or high impact Aerobics anymore. I then started to adjust my training and over the years I have had to continuously do this to take into account my inflammation in my joints.
The benefits of exercise for us are:
- 1. It helps stabilise the joints by building the muscle around them
- 2. Exercise helps improve the flexibility and range of motion.
- 3. It improves our mood by releasing endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals.
- 4. Exercise gives us energy which helps fight fatigue
- 5. It also eases the inflammation by helping us reduce our weight.
Exercise helps move the oxygen rich blood through the body and the muscles get stronger and burn more calories. A strong heart helps fight heart disease which people with Lupus could develop.
Types of training to consider
Some of the types of training that we should consider would be exercise where there is less impact or stress on our joints, especially where we have inflammation.
People with Lupus get the most benefits from low-impact exercises such as the above.
One should exercise for about 30 minutes per day, for 3/5 days per week. It will take about 3 to 4 weeks to build up your stamina and get to this point, so start slowly and build up to it.
If you have never exercised or have not exercised in some time, then it is important to start slow, and get medical advice from your doctor.
There is no Cardio in Pilates, as it involves precise moves and breathing techniques. It is great for increasing your flexibility and toning and strengthening muscles, with the focus on your core. It helps strengthen your abdomen and pelvis and also helps you with good posture.
All you need is a mat, a Pilates ball, and guidance in Pilates classes. You can either join a gym that specialises in Pilates, or you can obtain online classes through various sites that offer Pilates.
Ask your doctor if Pilates is the best choice for you and try to find a Pilates instructor who has experience in dealing with people with arthritis/inflammation in their joints, who can assist you.
If you have any form of arthritis, a strength-training program such as Pilates is particularly good. It has been shown that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training can help curb symptoms, maintain balance, keep joints flexible, and help you get to and keep an ideal body weight.
I have RA as well as Lupus, so there are some exercises in Pilates that I find I cannot do due to the inflammation in my hands, wrists, and shoulders, but then I just exclude those or make small changes so that I can still do them, but that they do not put pressure on my joints that are inflamed.
Yoga is a mind and body practice and several styles of yoga combine physical postures, movement, breathing techniques, and meditation/relaxation to promote mental and physical well-being. There are several types of yoga and many disciplines within the practice. If you are interested in Yoga, there are yoga apps that you can join like; Yoga Burn , or you can find Yoga Classes that you could go to near you with a Yoga instructor. I would also recommend that you check with your doctor if Yoga would be the right type of exercise for you.
Yoga classes were too difficult for me, due to my hands, wrists, and shoulder inflammation, and although I did do Yoga for a short while, I eventually changed to Pilates, which I found worked better for me personally.
For those who struggle with the more specific forms of exercise, stretching is then a much milder option. Stretching keeps muscles flexible, strong, and healthy and helps maintain the range of motion in the joints. Without it, muscles shorten and become tight which could put you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage. Regular stretching keeps our muscles long, lean, and flexible
You should never stretch muscles that are not warmed up first, so it is important to warm your muscles up before you stretch. A 5-to-10-minute walk is all you need to get them warm, and you can then start your stretching routine. You can also do this routine 3 to 4 times a week for 15 minutes. You will not immediately become more flexible; it will take a couple of months to improve your flexibility.
All you need is a mat, and you can get your stretching exercises from various sites that offer exercise routines or from various exercise apps that are available.
Floor body workout exercises
For this type of exercises, you would only require a mat, but you can also use resistance bands, which helps increase the pressure on your muscles to work harder.
There are a number of exercise apps available that you can use to give you daily exercise routines to do.
The most common routine will focus on upper body exercises, one day, and then lower body exercise another day, but tummy exercises should be done every day at the end of your workout routine.
I usually do a 30-minute floor workout, and start with a 5-minute warm up, by walking on my elliptical walker, but you could just walk around the garden or the block. I then start with a 15-minute floor exercise routine on either upper or lower body exercises, depending on the day, and I then do 5 minutes of tummy exercises after the upper/lower body exercises, and end with a 5-minute cool down.
The exercises should be precise, with focus on the correct posture and movement of the limbs and body, to ensure that you do not do any harm to your joints, muscles, or ligaments.
As before, you can check with your doctor if these exercises would be appropriate for you, or you can contact a biokineticist. They are exercise specialists who give you specialised exercise programs to assist you in improving your physical condition.
If you are not able to do any of the above exercise types, then simply walking for 30 minutes a day, is extremely beneficial. You can either walk around the block in your suburb, (if it’s safe to do so) or if you can afford to purchase an elliptical walker, which allows to walk at different speeds and settings, and there is no impact on your joints. I use my elliptical walker to warm up before doing any floor exercises.
I go hiking every second weekend, as it gets me out of the house and into nature, which I find very relaxing. I would normally do a 5 km hike which can take anything from 1 to 2 hours, depending at what venue you are hiking at, and it is not only good exercise, but is also greatly beneficial to your mental and phycological state.
Swimming is also beneficial for both cardio and strength training. You can either join a gym, which has a pool, or water aerobics, which has no impact and helps strengthen your body and muscles overall, or if you have a pool, you can swim either laps or do water exercises. There are apps that give you water exercises that you can do.
So, this depends on the type of dancing you want to do. Any dancing that has high impact would not be suitable, but I found a wonderful dancing app, called Body FX, which I joined, and it is based on Latin dancing with body movements, but the level of impact is up to the individual. They also teach you the steps in a step-by-step program, and you start with basics, and can level up after some time. It is so much fun to learn a dance, at the same time as you exercise. When I started out, I did not do more than a 30-minute routine, and I gradually increased that to 1 hour, but I only do this twice a week, the other 3 days, I do either floor body workouts, and/or Pilates.
I like to alternate what type of exercise I do every day, to ensure that I am exercising my whole body, as well as it keeps the exercising interesting and diverse.
So, there are several types of biking, either road bikes or mountain bikes. I used to Mountain bike but could not continue this with the inflammation in my wrist and hands, so I changed to road biking, as this does not cause jolting or shuddering and does not hurt my hands. You could also use an indoor cycle if outdoor biking is not up your alley
It was a big “mind change” to have to adjust my exercise from what I did before my Lupus diagnoses to the form of exercising I do today, but ultimately, I did what was best for my body and my Lupus condition and today I still exercise every day with certain of the above types of exercise.
You will have to discover what exercise will work best for you, but it is imperative to do some form of exercise to improve your overall health and wellbeing.