For lupus patients, exercise is a whole slew of catch-22’s – movement helps keep joints supple and muscles and bones strong, but at the same time any kind of movement can be excruciating. And while exercise is said to boost energy, it’s hard to get started when you can barely keep your eyes open to begin with.
However, it might be easier to start off an exercise plan if you stop thinking of it as “exercise”. Try approaching your next workout as a physical therapy session instead. If you’ve ever had to use physical therapy to recover from a strain or injury, the course of treatment probably wasn’t too far off from conventional exercises you’ve done at a gym. In my therapy sessions, there was a warm up, usually on a bike, stretching and strengthening exercises and then a cool-down, which was usually a massage. The main difference I noticed was intensity and goal; I wasn’t pushing myself like crazy to lose weight, I was strengthening my body with care to heal and function better.
As lupus patients we don’t need to be a certain body type – we need to be as healthy and functional as we can be. So don’t think as your trips to the gym as any old exercise, think of it as therapy, a part of your overall treatment. Pay special attention to what hurts you most and try to gently strengthen those areas. If you have a regular physical therapist, they can map out a plan for you, or try talking to your doctor for ideas. A gym personal trainer can also help – but see if they’ve worked with medical patients before. Since so many lupus symptoms mirror those of old age, asking if they have experience with the elderly might be a simpler way to screen your trainers, but make full disclosure a rule to avoid future problems.