Monday, 28 July 2008

Tips: Exercise

Most people with CFS will tell you that exercising is simply not possible for them.

I have CFS, and that's what I thought too. But it is possible, if you lower your expectations: exercise doesn't necessarily mean going for a run, or even a brisk walk.

Start small
Light exercise is still exercise. The key isn't exercising for long periods of time, it's exercising regularly. If you can only manage a walk from your chair to your fridge, that's all right. Just try to do it every day (or every other day, if you're in a particularly bad state).

Stay within your limits
It's important to stay within your limits. I was told that even if you're managing to go for a decent walk every other day with few after effects, only increase your speed or the length of time after a few weeks. And when you do increase your speed or length of time, only do so by 10%-20%.

Types of exercise
There are two kinds of exercise: aerobic and resistance. Aerobic exercise consists of activities like walking, running, bike riding, swimming, etc. Resistance exercise consists of activities like yoga, pilates, lifting weights, and callisthenics (push ups, stomach curls, lunges, etc). Aerobic exercise burns fat, and resistance exercise improves muscle tone.

I was advised to do aerobic and resistance exercise on alternating days, and to leave one day a week off as a rest day. The rest day is really important. When you do resistance exercise, it tears the muscles, and when the muscles repair themselves, you get a more toned physique. If you don't have that one day of rest, the muscles won't get a chance to repair themselves.

Aerobic exercise
For aerobic exercise, I go for 23-minute walks every other day. My doctor told me to stick to walking for now. In the 23 minutes, I vary my speed a lot. Here's what I do:

· For the first three minutes, I stand -- Standing is tough for me, so I call this "activity level one"
· For the fourth minute, I walk slowly -- I call a slow walk "activity level two"
· For the fifth minute, I walk at a moderate pace -- I call a moderately-paced walk "activity level three"
· For the sixth and seventh minutes, I return to a slow walk
· For the eigth minute I go back up to a moderate pace
· For the ninth minute I walk at a fast pace -- I call a fast-paced walk "activity level four"
· For the tenth and eleventh minutes, I go back to simply standing.

... and I keep toggling between activity level two, three and four for the remainder of the walk.

It's said that by using this sort of "step-up workout", you'll get the maximum benefits for a minimum amount of time. I use a "step-up workout" mainly because otherwise, I'd get bored. Counting the minutes gives me something to do! And before I know it, the walk's over.

And remember, even if you can't manage a fast walk or even a moderate walk, you can always adjust the "levels" to suit your abilities. For instance, your "activity level two" could be walking at a very very slow pace, instead of just a slow pace.

Resistance exercise
Every other day, I do callisthenics (push-ups, stomach curls, etc). I only do four sets of six repititions. You might think that wouldn't do a thing, but I do them regularly, and I find that each time, it gets a little easier.

Final notes
If you're anxious or worried that you might injure yourself, it might be an idea to start off doing your exercise at home. That's what I did. I started off by walking up and down the length of my apartment for 20 minutes. Callisthenics can also be done at home.

There are so many benefits to exercise. And once you start doing it, you might find that you look forward to doing it, because it makes you feel good.

Just remember these points:

· Some is better than none
· Start small
· Stay within your limits.

Give it a go; you might just surprise yourself!

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