Tailoring exercise to live well with chronic conditions

If you or a family member have a chronic condition – such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, back or joint pain – exercise can have many valuable health benefits. Regular and appropriate physical activity may help you manage symptoms better, have more energy and improve your quality of life, according to the Mayo Clinic.

But it’s important to talk with your doctor about any safety precautions you might need to take while exercising. You can also tailor your physical activities to gain specific benefits and overcome limitations or obstacles to exercise related to the illness or disability.

Better blood sugar control

Regular physical activity is essential for older adults with type 2 diabetes because it helps to improve blood sugar control, according to Saskatoon Health Region’s “Chronic Conditions and Exercise” resource. Eat something before exercising and avoid high-impact activities, since foot ulcers are common with diabetes. If you have problems with nerves in your hands or legs, try exercises from a sitting position, or swim for an aerobic workout that won’t put stress on your feet.

Limited mobility exercises

Chair aerobics – a series of repeated movements like air-punching, with or without weights – will raise your heart rate and help you burn calories if your mobility is limited, according to Harvard Medical School. Practicing yoga or Tai Chi in a chair can also help increase flexibility and improve your range of motion.

Moderate physical activity can help the heart muscle become stronger and improve circulation for people with congestive heart failure, says Saskatoon Health Region. Consult first with a doctor to know how much physical activity the heart can handle. A rule of thumb is the person should be able to talk while engaging in the activity and slow down if they are too out of breath.

Balancing activities, such as tai chi, are recommended for people with osteoporosis to reduce the chances of a fall, and walking helps to strengthen bones, says Saskatoon Health Region.

Easing chronic pain

Exercise can help ease chronic pain by releasing endorphins, easing anxiety, and boosting sleep and energy levels, says Saskatoon Health Region. Take a warm shower or bath to loosen the joints before exercising. Proper breathing techniques and ending a session with a relaxation exercise helps to maximize the benefits.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a variety of physical activities such as walking clubs, yoga, tai chi and gardening that can improve endurance, flexibility and strength, while being adjusted to fit the needs of all residents. Learn more about our LiveNow life enrichment programming on our website!