Fight inflammation through movement!

Carrie and Cara bodypump after glow

This photo captures the 10 minutes after my first Bodypump class because I needed proof that I could live through it. And I did! The smiling blond to the left is the instructor and one of my dear friends. Cara is such a dear friend, in fact, that she is the only person I will let lie to me. (But you said only 2 more!) She is also the Ulcerative Colitis Warrior and one of the funniest women I know. Look for our podcast coming soon (Summer 2017) on the ups and downs of healing from autoimmune…

But I digress…

Through this series, I’ve written about how movement helped heal my connection to my body and how to get exercises in even when we are busy, but today I want to be a little bolder. If you have an autoimmune disease, exercise — even a little! — could help tremendously.

I know that exercise can be challenging when you barely have strength to wake up from your four-hour Saturday nap, but even a little bit can go a long way. You don’t have to think super big when it comes to exercise, especially if you are having a flare. Just 20 minutes of walking can reduce inflammation.

When you do feel stronger, incorporating strength training can really improve your quality of life. For instance, research has shown that those of us with autoimmune diseases like Lupus,  fibromyalgia,  and MS benefit from strength training through a reduction in our symptoms and an increase in our wellbeing. This is because these types of exercise also help fight inflammation. And that’s what we are all going for with the foods we eat or don’t and the medicines we take. Hell, it could be our battle cry: “Fight the inflammation!”

Strength training does not have to be difficult. It could simply mean intentionally doing some squats and lifting weighted objects (cans, bottles of water, children) a few times a week. Or you could get a bit more formal and do a short strength training video from Fitness Blender.

Or take it a step further …

Lately, I’ve decided to upgrade my workout routine from yoga, walking, and YouTube videos because I was so inspired by the remarkable comeback I’ve seen Cara make over the last few years.  Cara’s story and her energy are the reason I got out of my comfort zone and started going to workout classes. For those of you not in the know, this means a room with a bunch of other people also trying to follow instruction. I know, I thought it sounded horrible too.  I’ve avoided these sorts of activities for a good 30+ years because I had a longstanding policy of not intentionally making a fool out of myself in public. I think my P.E. teacher thought I was crazy.

But that fear, like lots of silly fears we all have, was holding me back. So I decided to face my fear and make a commitment to going to a minimum of three strength training workout classes each week. And you know what? It’s awesome. My workouts have been ten times more effective than doing it by myself. There are people (including the instructors) of all sizes, shapes, and ages, and they don’t care about whether or not I look silly because they are just trying to make it through the workout like I am.

And yes, I do probably look a little silly, but I also feel a heck of a lot stronger.

Takeaways and tips to making working out work for you.

  1. Working out, especially strength training, is a great way to reduce inflammation in your body and increase your quality of life.
  2. Start where you are. If you have really low energy, try to build up to at least a 20-minute walk. If you are feeling pretty solid, start to incorporate strength training into your weekly routine.
  3. Listen to your body. If you feel particularly exhausted after working out, rest and then start over by reducing the amount of time, weight, or repetition. You will get stronger.
  4. Do something that interests you. Think you might like to try Barre? Try it at a gym or YouTube it. Think you might like bicep curls while binging Buffy, do that.
  5. Don’t let fear get in your way. A better quality of life vastly outweighs the fear of looking silly.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what strength training method you chose as long as its something that you will stick with. Fight that inflammation. Just do it!

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