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Exercising with Chronic Health Conditions

It's true that almost anyone, at any age, can do some sort of physical activity. Believe it or not, it's possible to still exercise even if you have a health condition like Arthritis, Diabetes, Heart Disease or Chronic Pain. In fact, physical activity can help with some of these conditions.

For most older adults, physical activity such as walking, riding a bike, swimming, weightlifting and gardening are safe to do, especially if you incorporate them slowly into your daily/weekly routine. First, you may want to talk to your doctor about how your health condition might effect your ability to be active.

Exercising with Arthritis

For those who suffer with arthritis, exercise can actually reduce joint pain and stiffness. In addition, weight loss can occur, which also decreases joint pain and stress on the joints. Flexibility exercises such as upper and lower body stretching and tai chi can help keep joints moving and relieve stiffness. Strengthening exercises, such as overhead arm raises, can help you build and maintain muscle strength to support and protect your joints. Endurance exercises help to make the heart and arteries stronger & may lessen the swelling in some joints. Try activities that don't require a lot of weight and stress on your joints, such as swimming or biking.

If you have arthritis, you may need to avoid some types of activities when joints are swollen or inflamed. If you have pain in a specific area, it may be a good idea to focus on working out other areas of your body for a day or two.

Exercising with Diabetes

For people with Diabetes, exercise and physical activity can help manage the disease. Walking and other forms of daily exercise can help improve glucose levels in older people with diabetes. It is helpful to set goals to become more active in your daily life. A few easy steps to be more active:

  • Stretch during TV commercial breaks

  • Walk around when you talk on the phone

  • Take more steps by parking farther away from stores, movie theaters or your office.

Exercising and Heart Health

Your everyday choices such as eating healthy, maintaining a healthy body weight and getting exercise contribute significantly to your heart health. Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are physically active. A lack of physical activity can worsen other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, pre-diabetes, and obesity. Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy. To keep a healthy heart, aim for at least 2 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week.

Exercising with Chronic Pain

Most people who experience chronic pain can exercise safely and it can actually help to manage the pain being experienced. In fact, being inactive can sometimes lead to worsening pain levels and loss of function. It is important to talk to your doctor about what exercises may be right for you. Each type of exercise (endurance, strength, balance, flexibility) have their own health benefits, so a combination may be the best.

For More Information About Chronic Conditions

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) 800-860-8747 (toll-free) 866-569-1162 (TTY/toll-free)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 800-352-9424 (toll-free)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 301-592-8573

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) 240-453-8280

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases 877-226-4267 (toll-free) 301-565-2966 (TTY)

American Physical Therapy Association 800-999-2782 (toll-free)

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