For those living with chronic illness, the mere mention of exercise can trigger feelings of frustration and resentment. Often, well-meaning doctors and loved ones suggest activities like yoga or Pilates as a cure-all for our ailments, without fully understanding the complex nature of our conditions. However, despite the negative associations that may surround exercise, it is possible to reframe our mindset and discover the joy in movement with chronic illness and all that comes with it.
*This post may include affiliate or referral links. At no extra cost to you (and with a special reader discount, in some cases!), I’ll receive a small commission or other rewards to help support An Ideal Life. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases*
The information in this blog post is provided for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read online. The author of this post is not a licensed medical professional and does not assume any liability for any actions taken based on the information contained in this post.
Redefining Exercise for Spoonies
The first step in finding joy in movement with chronic illness is to challenge our preconceived notions of what exercise should look like. As spoonies, it’s essential to redefine exercise to encompass activities that work for our unique bodies and circumstances.
Let go of societal expectations.
Many people have a narrow view of what exercise should look like, often picturing intense gym sessions or rigorous group classes. However, as individuals with chronic illness, it’s crucial to let go of these expectations and embrace activities that are suitable for our unique needs. Remember that any movement can be considered exercise, whether it’s gentle stretching, dancing in your living room, or taking a leisurely stroll around the block.
Listen to your body.
One of the most important aspects of exercising with chronic illness is learning to listen to your body. Pay attention to your energy levels, pain, and overall well-being, and use this information to guide your activity choices. Give yourself permission to rest when needed, and remember that it’s okay to modify your exercise routine based on how you’re feeling on any given day.
Create a personalized exercise plan.
Work with your healthcare team or a fitness professional experienced in chronic illness to create a personalized exercise plan that takes into account your specific needs and limitations. This plan should be flexible, allowing for adjustments based on your energy levels and symptoms.
Embracing Joyful Movement
Once we’ve redefined what exercise means for us, the next step is to discover activities that bring us joy and make movement an enjoyable part of our lives.
Find your passion.
Experiment with different types of movement to discover what you genuinely enjoy. Try activities like swimming, tai chi, or even hula hooping. You may be surprised to find a newfound love for an activity you never considered before. The key is to keep an open mind and focus on finding pleasure in movement.
Play is often overlooked as a form of exercise, but it can be a powerful way to bring joy to your movement routine. Whether it’s playing catch with your kids, engaging in a game of tag, or simply dancing around your home, incorporating play can make exercise feel less like a chore and more like an enjoyable pastime.
Celebrate your achievements.
No matter how small, it’s essential to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements in movement. Did you complete a short walk or participate in a gentle stretching session? Celebrate these victories! Focusing on your progress can help foster a positive relationship with exercise and motivate you to continue.
Utilizing Movement to Ease Symptoms
While exercise alone may not be a magic cure for chronic illness, it can be an effective tool for managing symptoms and improving overall well-being.
Understand the benefits of movement.
Regular physical activity can offer numerous benefits for those living with chronic illness, including improved mood, increased energy levels, better sleep, and reduced pain. Additionally, exercise can help strengthen muscles, improve balance, and enhance overall quality of life. While it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is different, many individuals with chronic illness can find relief and support through movement.
Monitor your progress.
Tracking your progress can help you understand how movement impacts your symptoms and overall well-being. Keep a journal or use a fitness app to record your activities, noting any changes in your mood, energy levels, pain, and other symptoms. This information can be invaluable in making adjustments to your exercise routine and understanding what works best for your body.
Staying motivated can be challenging, especially when dealing with the ups and downs of chronic illness. Consider setting small, achievable goals to maintain a sense of purpose and motivation. Enlist the support of friends or family to join you in your movement with chronic illness journey, or find an online community of individuals with similar experiences to share your successes and challenges.
Maintaining a Balanced Approach
As with all aspects of living with chronic illness, balance is key when it comes to exercise.
Rest is just as important as movement with chronic illness. Listen to your body and give yourself permission to rest when needed. Incorporating rest days into your exercise routine can help prevent overexertion and allow your body to recover.
Adjust your routine as needed.
Living with chronic illness often means coping with fluctuating symptoms and energy levels. Be prepared to adjust your exercise routine as needed, allowing for more gentle activities on days when you’re feeling less energetic or experiencing increased pain.
Seek professional guidance.
If you’re unsure where to start or need help adapting your exercise routine to your specific needs, seek the guidance of a healthcare professional or fitness expert experienced in working with individuals with chronic illness. They can help you develop a safe, effective, and enjoyable movement plan tailored to your unique situation.
While the idea of exercise may initially provoke feelings of frustration for those with chronic conditions, it is possible to reframe our mindset and discover the joy in movement with chronic illness. By redefining exercise, embracing joyful movement, and harnessing the power of physical activity to ease symptoms, we can improve our well-being and enhance our quality of life. Remember that the journey to joyful movement is a personal one, and it’s essential to listen to your body, prioritize rest, and seek support when needed.