Submitted Date 05/14/2019

For many women suffering from a chronic condition, the idea of exercising can be a nightmare. Living with arms and hands that may not work or legs that are unstable, thinking about heading to the gym is usually the last thing on our mind. However, as a woman who has faced a chronic condition for over 12 years, I have learned that even the simplest exercise is important. I have always said, "I may have this disease, but I will not let it have me."

With this idea in mind, I have learned that working to keep my muscles strong is important. However, traditional workout equipment doesn't always work with a chronic condition, so I have learned to make a few modifications to my workout routine and hopefully, these ideas can help others as well. Keep in mind the importance of keeping your muscles strong and don't let your disease or condition have you.

Walking Can Be Your Best Form of Exercise

While walking may not seem like a huge exercise program, for some women with chronic conditions, just walking around the house can be difficult. However, I have learned that including a daily walk makes a huge difference for me, even if it is only to the mailbox and back on bad days.

I have found a program that allows me to walk indoors and with assistance if needed. The program is called "Walk Away the Pounds" and is created by Leslie Sansone. It incorporates walking in place with simple side steps, kicks and knee bends. I have found this to work really well, even if I am having a day where my walking is a bit unstable. If I place a chair in front or to the side of me while following these tapes, I am able to hold on if I find myself needing stability. These tapes provide a great range of motion workout for my muscles, as well as a cardio workout.

Find a Local Pool or Aquatic Class in Your Area

Most area park districts have pools that are open to the public and offer community classes. There are classes that are available for every skill level and some areas even have classes offered by certified teachers from the Arthritis Association. http://www.arthritis.org/chaptermap.php While I have personally never done one of these classes, I do have friends that have participated and found them to be very helpful.

I find, for me, the pool offers the ability to work my muscles without strain on my joints. My pool routine includes swimming of course, but I will also walk in the water. I know this may sound weird, but the water provides resistance for my muscles, and because I can walk without it straining my joints, I can get a good workout without really knowing it. I also try and take advantage of the hot tub after exercise, as the hot water relaxes my joints and muscles.

Utilize Small Weights and Stress Balls to Keep Muscles Active

While standard weightlifting is no longer an option for me, I do like to do my best to keep my muscles active and strong. With a chronic condition, it is very easy to let your muscles waste away, but I am determined to keep mine strong for as long as I can. I have small hand weights which I will use for arm curls and wrist curls. My condition greatly affects my arms and hands, so I believe this is important to keep my arms as strong as I can.

I have also found stress balls to be a must for my exercise routine. Stress balls are those funny looking, squishy toys in all sorts of shapes. They are designed to be squeezed and manipulated with your hands to relieve stress and tension in the hands. I suffer from pain and tension in my hands on a regular basis, so I find using these to be a must. They work the muscles in my hands and keep them strong, plus the squeezing action, even if only gently, helps when my hands are in pain.

Even with a chronic disease, it is important to keep as active as you can. It does, however, become a learning process because you never want to overdo it. Even after 12 years, I still find that sometimes on my good days I do too much and pay for it the next day. It is a learning process and one that will take time. However, I am a firm believer in not letting my disease define who I am. While it does limit things at times, I want to do as much as I can to keep active, even if it is just in a small way.

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