How do I get fit while I get sick?
March 29, 2014 4:00 AM Subscribe
I want to get fit because it would help my health long-term, but exercising more than a gentle walk makes me sick short-term, so I am stuck. I have specific restrictions on what I can do because of stroke risks, and expect to continue to frequently fall ill. I would like new ideas and especially advice from others with chronic illnesses that fluctuate on how they handle exercise.
posted by viggorlijah to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I was on bedrest for about 10 weeks with a difficult pregnancy and then started having very minor but frequent TIAs (tiny temporary strokes) and my immune system went bunk. Looking back, I have spent about 70% of the past three years sick somehow. I'm on a combination of bloodthinners that appear to have slowed or stopped the strokes, and right now am on antibiotics to clear the most recent infection. I changed my nutrition/diet, cutting caffeine in half (it helps with migraines and stroke risk though) and drinking lots more water. I rarely eat processed or junk food now and have worked out a good mostly-vegetarian high-protein diet. In the past, weight loss/gain has been exercise activity related, as my diet has been pretty steady for a long time.
I have the stamina of a wet noodle now. My physical strength is gone as well, but weirdly not my flexibility. I used to be a chubby ball of energy, chasing my kids around, working a full day and easily recovering from illnesses with a bit of rest. This week, I had a good day (yay antibiotics) after a long stretch of fevers/coughing, and took my toddler out. We walked at a reasonable stroll for two hours, and I came home and spent the rest of that day and the next day back in bed because I'd done too much.
My doctors want me to lose weight and exercise, but with the restriction that I shouldn't get my heart rate up and need to rest whenever I am ill, which is like 70% of the time. Gentle walking and possibly swimming have been their suggestions.
I busted my knee and repeatedly sprained one ankle that now randomly gives way so running is out. Please do not suggest yoga or anything that involves serious head movement, as that is both a stroke risk and makes me dizzy when my sinuses are infected again. I walk my dog when I'm well and I can go swimming with my husband on weekends, but am too scared to swim alone in case I have a TIA. Also, pneumonia a couple of times.
I also have a ridiculously high pain threshold, so I don't realise I've pushed myself until it's bad, as in walking around with a broken toe or bleeding shin without noticing. This sounds like a great feature, except it means that I will get up and do stuff until I vomit or faint and realise I am quite sick.
I expect to fall ill to varying degrees repeatedly for the next few years. I feel like Sisyphus because every few steps forward seem to just rebound or I fall sick and have to start all over again. I can't commit to a regular exercise regime because I don't know if I'll be able to walk out of the house next week. What can I do that will work around these weird limitations like graded exercising? How do you keep going when it's going to get wiped out by the next bout of illness?