According to the great pioneer of ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia self-help techniques, Bruce Campbell, PH.D., exercise can counteract many of the negative factors that come from having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia.
While being ill reduces activity levels and can produce deconditioning, fatigue, pain, stiffness, anxiety, and depression, exercising can help you reverse that downward spiral by increasing your levels of fitness; reducing fatigue, pain, and stiffness; and improving mood.
Think about it: Your body is made up of many muscles. You have muscles in your legs, core-muscles, and even your most-central organ, your heart, is a muscle. These muscles need to be exercised in order to prevent them from deconditioning.
How to begin exercising “the right way,” without harming your body
If you’re like most of us, you tried to push through your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when you first got sick, only to realize that your continued pushing beyond your physical and mental limits triggered post-exertional malaise, the severe fatigue that results from doing too much. When we’ve experienced the dreadful effects of over-exertion on our condition, we understandably feel afraid of giving exercise a second chance.
Start with an exercise limit that feels safe to you.
For some people this might be as little as a few minutes of physical activity a day.
Also, watch your heart-rate as your exercise; it may trigger malaise when it goes over a certain threshold. For most people, the threshold is around 60% of their maximum heart rate.
You calculate your safe heart rate in two steps. First, you determine your maximum heart-rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, a 45-year old person’s maximum heart rate is 175 (=220 – 45).
Second, you calculate your safe heart-rate multiplying your maximum heart-rate by .60. Continuing the above example, the 45-year old person’s safe heart-rate is 105 (= 175*.60= maximum heart-rate*.60).
How many minutes of exercising feels safe to you at this time? Take a guess and write it down.Tip: If you’re not 100% sure that you can do more than ninety seconds of exercise, start with that. Ninety seconds of the right type of exercise is safe for most patients.
What is your safe heart-rate threshold? Calculate it by inserting your age in this formula:
(220-[your age]) * .60
How to determine whether your current level of exercise is right for you
You know that you are engaging in the appropriate level of exercise if you can repeat it the next day without worsening your symptoms.
Every physical activity counts as exercise.
Taking a shower, grocery shopping, putting your clothes on all requires physical exertion. If you are close to reaching your body’s exercise limit just by engaging in your daily activities, only exercise on the days when you feel you have some energy left for exercise.
If your symptoms are higher than normal on a particular day, reduce your level of physical activity.
Keeping records, the next strategy you’ll learn about, can help you discover the level of exercise that is safe for you even when you’re experiencing a dip.
For more information about fitness and exercise options at GreatLife in Topeka, contact Karon Lee at (785) 640-6340.