Thursday, June 24, 2010

Get Moving, Girl!

Image by shorpy

In my last office visit with my new rheumatologist, we discussed my exercise habits. Or, the lack of, to be more specific. Dr. J. firmly believes, and rightly so, that regular exercise is an important tool in the treatment of autoimmune disease. We discussed how difficult it is to walk that fine line with exercise - too little causing an increase in de-conditioning and weakening of muscles, and too much overtaxing my energy and backfiring by resulting in a day or two of complete rest.

However, I didn't volunteer the information that I am, in fact, a lazybutt. I'll bet Dr. J. will figure that out all on her own soon enough.

We discussed the benefits and difficulties of various types of exercise. Dr. J. mentioned that many autoimmune patients find exercising in a swimming pool to be very therapeutic and enjoyable. People dealing with joint issues, especially those with any type of arthritis, find water exercises particularly helpful since the water reduces the weight burden on joints. You can read more about the benefits of water exercise on the Arthritis Foundation website.

I thought back to my last experiences with swimming, and had to agree. I love the sensation of floating in a pool. What I find difficult about swimming is everything that is necessary before and after getting into the swimming pool.

Since I don't have a pool in my backyard, or one within walking distance, to swim for exercise would require me to purchase a membership in the local swim and sport club. Then I'd have to pack a bag, and drive to the club. I'd have to change clothes and struggle into my squishy spandex suit. (And yes, it is a struggle. Trust me. I've discussed this ridiculous exercise before.) I'd have to find the largest beach towel I could and wrap myself in it for the walk from the changing rooms to the pool, lest a small child see me in a swimming suit and be scarred for life.

Once I finally got there, I would love being in the pool, and I'll bet all of the exercises would be enjoyable and very good for my joints.


After class, I'd have to struggle OUT of the swimming suit. It always seems even harder to get it off than on....shower, get dressed, dry my hair, slather on moisturizer from head to toe, jam all my stuff back in my bag, get in the car and go back home. Good grief. Forget the exercise class - I'd be wiped out simply from all the machinations of getting ready for and cleaning up after.

I wish there was an easier's see.........

OK. I've got it. We need to put an addition on the house that includes an indoor swimming pool. I wouldn't have to worry about UV rays, and, I could just jump in there wearing anything I want. Or not wearing anything I want.

Oo. Sorry. Didn't mean to bring that haunting image to mind.

I could paddle away to my hearts content. I'll bet I'd be in there every day.

Actually, I do have a few friends who are lucky enough to have their own pools. They have mentioned that the freedom to jump in anytime they want does come with a whole other set of responsibilities - to keep the pool clean, to buy and use chemicals (and I wonder how that would affect me..) to test the water weekly, and to pay for the energy bill to keep the water at the correct temperature and recirculating pumps running. The pool requires some sort of access safety feature to keep little kids from falling in. And their home insurance bill rises significantly when a permanent home swimming pool is part of the policy.

Well, geez. There goes that idea. Too bad. Guess I'll just have to be a couch potato. *Julia takes a running jump and plants herself firmly in front of the television*

Ah, but of course, aside from swimming, there's many other ways to exercise.

Dr. J. made a simple, common sense suggestion: "You don't need to take an exercise class if that's problematic. You just need to move more. It doesn't matter what you do."

She pointed out the pedometer attached to her waistband of her pants, and suggested that I get an similar inexpensive model, strap it on, and just begin to note how many steps I take during the day. After establishing a baseline, she thought it might be a good idea to just add a few extra steps every week and gauge my body's response.

"You don't need to be walking miles and miles every day," she said. "Adding more movement of any kind is beneficial. Just do a little bit at a time."

That's so just might work. Dang. Time to get off the couch.


annie said...

Julia, consider me one of your lazybutt team members. I took an aqua fitness course a few years ago, and I had to quit halfway, due to the reasons you stated above....the prep before/after, the travelling, and the exhausting fatigue after the class that put me in bed rest the rest of the day. If a medical team could figure out how we can exercise without having that exhaustion afterwards, I'll gladly folow an exercise regime, otherwise...count me out. Have any studies been done with autoimmune disease and cardiovascular health? I know that in cfs (chronic fatigue syndrome), studies have been done that prove exercise worsens the symptoms, plus there is a real danger of heart problems. Can this be true also of autoimmune disease?

Leslie at SugarAndSpiceADK. said...

Julia, I live in upstate New York, and our winters are very rough--lots of snow, and below zero temperatures. During the late spring, summer and fall I like to walk, up to 4 miles some days, but as my Sjogren's progresses, I find that my feet have become more and more painful (burning, aching, feeling like there is no padding left in them). I have taken up swimming in an indoor pool during the winter months, although I can't believe that all of that chlorine can be good for anyone, especially those of us with autoimmune diseases! Have you ever heard anything about chlorine exposure causing a flare up of symptoms? By the way, I love your blog, and read it daily. Keep up the good, informative work, Julia!

Anonymous said...

I feel just like you do about the swimming Julia, and I have been justifying my position over 20 years .
I also spent many years not exercising for many obvious reasons, but now I have osteoporosis and not much in the way of muscle. That means the balance often becomes worse. So finally I began doing a very simple exercise tensing my abs - luckily after a few months of that I saw a Dr who told me I had good abdominal muscles. And that was after ony a couple months of this. Finding out that it was possible to control something about my body was so satisfying that I increased my efforts (very slowly) and have seen good improvements. So good luck. I hope you can find a palatable answer. Mine has been modified Pilates


Anonymous said...

I also wonder about the chlorine, but if swimming is otherwise an option, would one of the adaptive swimsuits on the market help, maybe?