Spandex is not a right
October 19, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Knee surgeries, spinal injuries and systemic arthritis. No heath insurance. This has stopped me from moving around very much. Now I'm Rubenesque. There's been a ton of advice on exercise, but none of it seems to be aimed towards the movement impaired. Yoga has been helpful for regaining some mobility, but isn't helping with weight loss.

My diet has been designed by a nutritionist, and I stick to it...about 1200 calories a day, with allowances for desserts sometimes. It's not an "eat less, fatty" situation, so please, let's avoid that conversation.

What I need is direction towards some exercises for people who cannot run, sprint, jog, bounce up and down, lift their arms above their head, or do any of those other things that I used to be able to do. Any (non-pharmaceutical) suggestions for controlling pain from said exercise would be welcome.

I think once I lose about 50 pounds, the pressure will be off my knees and back, and more vigorous exercise will be possible, but how do I lose that 50 pounds without aerobic workouts?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by decathecting at 2:27 PM on October 19, 2009

In addition to walking, you may be able to handle an elliptical machine.
posted by Mavri at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2009

Is any form of swimming or water therapy a possibility for you?
posted by Kimberly at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you ride an exercise bike? Do situps? Crunches? Leg lifts? Aquatic exercises, including swimming, treading water, or walking in the shallow end of a pool?
posted by dfriedman at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2009

I would look into water aerobics. My local Y is fairly inexpensive and offers classes geared towards a variety of abilities. If the class is more high impact that you are comfortable with, you can speak to the teacher about modifications and stand in water that is a little deeper than normally recommended to cushion the impact on your joints.

Even if there is no water aerobics class, if you can get access to a pool, you can just walk or run laps, or alternate swimming, walking, and running in a way that is comfortable for you.
posted by jennyb at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2009

Stationary cycling would be my first suggestion. It was a big part of my rehab after knee surgery, and features total lack of impact or weight-bearing-ness. Elliptical machine would be another possibility, if the range of motion required by pedalling is a bit too much currently.
posted by Kat Allison at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2009

Do you have access to a pool (YMCA, nearby public school, etc)? Walking has always been my preferred form of aerobic exercise, but in recent years (thanks to Lupus/arthritis) my hips and lower spine ache for 24 hours or more after each 30-minute jaunt. My rheumatologist recommended either swimming or water aerobics. There are classes at the YMCA and even one local hospital in my area, and there are various types of plus-sized swimwear options that provide coverage for those of us who don't feel swimsuit-friendly, physique-wise.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:38 PM on October 19, 2009

I find that doing something active immediately after I wake up raises my basal metabloism and makes me more active and use more energy all day.
posted by goethean at 2:38 PM on October 19, 2009

Assuming you're in the US, the Arthritis Foundation has water aerobics classes aimed at people like you. In some places they are offered at YMCAs, other places through community pools. I think the easiest thing to do is use the zip code search to find your local chapter and then look for water aerobics on their page. You'll be amazed how good being in the water can make your aching body feel.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:41 PM on October 19, 2009

Depending on how well your knees have recovered, you may be able to do some deadlifts. They're hard work, which uses calories, and low impact.
posted by ignignokt at 3:36 PM on October 19, 2009

Water aerobics would seem perfect for this. I used to be a member at a club that offered water aerobics classes specifically for the mobility impaired.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2009

Walk. As fast as you can, however fast that is.

Yoga for weight loss. A friend has a dvd titled this (could be this, or this), and there are videos online (1,2) in the same vein.

Best to you --
posted by mmw at 5:36 PM on October 19, 2009

When my father had knee surgery, they recommended he buy a recumbent exercise bike for exercise purposes. Water aerobics, as suggested above, is also good for people with joint pain.
posted by MadamM at 6:27 PM on October 19, 2009

I have similar problems, and regular water aerobics was too much bouncing around for my back. You might want to try no impact water aerobics if you can find a class.

My doctor actually recommended a Wii fit, and it actually seems to help. Many of the strength training exercises are similar to the exercises I need to do for physical therapy. You can take it at your own pace and skip the stuff that doesn't work for you. Plus it's actually kinda fun.
posted by Kicky at 6:48 PM on October 19, 2009

In addition to walking, you may be able to handle an elliptical machine

I have arthritic knees and hips, and when I first joined the gym 2 years ago I had plantar fasciitis which prevented me from walking on a treadmill. The elliptical machine was the answer for me and I really grew to love it. You may only be able to stay on it for 5 minutes the first time, but stick with it and you can really increase your stamina.

After I work on the elliptical machine for 30 or 40 minutes, I do a little weight lifting. If I have time I add in some biking. Then I work out in the therapy pool where I combine water yoga with a series of leg and hip exercises. This really helps with the arthritis.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:04 PM on October 19, 2009

I've had mobility issues, myself (spine, pelvic structure, and to a much lesser degree, knees). Going through physical therapy, and then applying it every day forever and ever amen, has changed my life. I'm in far less pain, and I can do much more. Please consider looking into it as soon as you can afford it.

I topped PT off by purchasing a recumbent exercise bike for cheap off of Craigslist. It was a gentle way to get my full aerobic exercise in, and it's ultra-convenient: just roll out of bed and onto the bike. Even when I can't walk, I can bike. I also do a modified beginning level pilates, which seems to be helping overall strength and contributing to my core stability on top of the physical therapy. I personally have to avoid yoga, but if it has helped you to improve your mobility, I'd hold on tight to it.

Do you have a doctor you can make a visit to, to help advise you?

As far as controlling pain: start slower than you think you need to, and work up ever so gradually. Don't push yourself. Stop if it hurts, unless you've been given the go-ahead from a doctor or physical therapist. For injury/local pain, elevate, rest, and ice (10-15 minutes at a time).

I've no idea about arthritis pain.

Nthing looking into water exercise, if you have access.
posted by moira at 9:03 PM on October 19, 2009

Cannabis is good for pain. I use it to reduce pain so I can excercise. FWIW I suffer from knee problems as well as scoliosis from a leg length discrepancy (which gives me pain in my back).
Nthing swimming as well as anything bike related provided you have your seat at an ideal height (otherwise you will feel it in your knees). Also Pilates and any theraband exercises. A good idea is to try and build muscle as it burns more calories (while at rest) than fat and will help you loose weight in the long run - not to mention helping support all your sore joints.
posted by smartypantz at 1:25 AM on October 20, 2009

Yep, like smartypants, I was gonna suggest MM (medicinal marijuana). Not only does it take the edge off the pain, it is also a very effective anti-inflammatory.
posted by randomstriker at 4:04 AM on October 20, 2009

I'm going to suggest mindfulness as a means to your end, as a partner if you will, with whom you can do any exercise. When you're dealing with injuries - sore joints and muscles, etc. - being in touch with and responding to your body's needs may well be more important than imposing an exercise regimen, however well-meaning, however elegantly constructed, however closely it seems to match your physical needs and compensate for your physical limitations.

Mindful movement, though not necessarily aerobic itself, will certainly help prevent further injury, so you'll be able to sustain your commitment to exercise that burns calories. Give yourself permission to love the body you're in, to tune in to its experience, to let your body lead you to where it finds joy. Be committed to fun and you will move more. A few suggestions:

Dance. Set the time aside, (put on some headphones if you're worried about the neighbors) and dance. Move however your body wants to move that day. Does it want to stretch? Does it want to boogie? Do you feel drawn to the floor? Do hand weights feel like something you'd like to add? Maybe that day your body wants to lie still and relax. That's good. That's the right thing for that day. Take it easy on yourself. Your goal is to find joy in movement, even if it's just the movement of your diaphragm up and down.

A little movement therapy type training in Pilates or Feldenkrais, if you find a good teacher and can afford the classes, can help as well, not directly with weight loss but with the inner awareness that will allow you to incorporate more movement into your life.

Something that hadn't been mentioned so far, and what I started to write about, before taking the detour into mindfulness, was indoor rowing. Awesome low-impact aerobic exercise can be had with a Concept 2 rower.

Best of luck to you.
posted by pocket_of_droplets at 6:20 AM on October 20, 2009

I think a gym is a really good idea, because you can try out all of the machines (and the pool if they have one) and see what works for you and what doesn't. There have been times when the elliptical was the best exercise for me, and times when the bike or the treadmill was the only pain-free option. And if something is problematic for me now, I wait a few weeks or a month and try again--sometimes things get better with time.
posted by creepygirl at 3:46 PM on October 20, 2009

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