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Dr. Robinson Welch, a psychologist and clinic director of the Weight Management and Eating Disorder Program at Washington University, says the downside to exercising with a serious illness is when people "go gangbusters and injure themeselves. Then they struggle with a blown knee in addition to the disease, and that can be very demoralizing."
Welch recommends you start slow, even if it's just a walk around the block.
Here are some guidelines from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for exercising with a serious illness.
-How to monitor your pulse and breathing rate and establish an appropriate target range.
-How to pace exercise to avoid overdoing.
-How to adapt and modify routines as symptoms fluctuate.
-How to time medications with exercise for best results. This may be particularly important for people taking antispasticity medication.
-How to handle symptoms including heat sensitivity, poor balance, fatigue, muscle weakness and spasticity.
-How to modify exercises, especially if symptoms cause a difference in strength or ability between one side of the body and the other.
-How to progress to more challenging activities safely and effectively.
Along with looking for a fitness routine that fits, check these points as well:
-Choose a location within easy traveling distance.
-Guard against overheated environments. Check locker room temperature and humidity.
-Inquire about pool temperature: The ideal is between 80 and 84 degrees.
-Look for nonslip floors in locker rooms and around pools, and grab rails in pools and shower areas; use pool lifts if needed.
-Check sandy beaches or rough terrain that may pose accessibility problems.
-Always wear rubber-soled nylon or plastic water shoes or sandals on the wet floors of locker rooms and pool areas.
-Don't hesitate to lean against a wall or use a chair for support in stretching, yoga or aerobics classes.
-When working to improve balance, have someone standing nearby for protection.
Source: National Multiple Sclerosis Society
(c) 2003, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.