How To Exercise When You Have an Autoimmune Disease

One thing that all autoimmune illnesses have in common is inflammation. This inflammation affects different parts of the body and different people in unique ways. Many people with autoimmune conditions find that they struggle with joint and muscle pain, as well as overwhelming fatigue. An exercise program for someone with autoimmune disease should support healing and health, and prevent further inflammation.

Before beginning any exercise program, you should consult with your doctor or a licensed physical therapist. You need to make sure that you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program.

Benefits of exercising when you have an autoimmune disease: 

  • Exercise can boost energy levels 
  • Endorphins are released when you exercise and they're natural painkillers
  • Exercise can reduce inflammation
  • Anxiety and depression which are often associated with autoimmune disease can be relieved through physical activity (find source)

What are some ways to exercise with an autoimmune condition?

  • Walking on flat surfaces 
  • Yoga
  • Water exercise classes
  • Stationary biking 

Tips for exercising with an autoimmune disease 

1. Use exercise to make you feel your best  
Depending on the autoimmune condition low impact exercise may be the best option. I've found that pushing myself to hard means an extra long recovery and a lot of fatigue. So I've learned that for me it's not about burning a huge amount of calories or building muscle, it's more about keeping my body healthy. Even if light low impact exercise is all you can do, that can still help you feel better and healthier. 

2. Customize your workout plan for you
Some days you may be able to more and some less. If you're experiencing an autoimmune flare and can't exercise then don't force yourself to. Rest and get back to it when you can. 

3. Push yourself slowly
For me I find that very (and I mean very!) small increases in the workouts i'm doing helps me improve my fitness without pushing myself to far and resulting in major burnout. 

4. Find your sweet spot
When I first started working out I was pushing myself way to far. I would get home and immediately fall asleep for a few hours. Not good! You should be able to continue on with you day with energy. Conserve your spoons (as many chronic illness sufferers would say.)

My Workout Routine: 

What's my current exercise routine? (This is 2-3 times a week depending on how I feel)
10 Minutes of light stretching
Walk/ Run (20 minutes) Outside on a flat trail or beach
Walk 2-3 Minutes Run 1 Minute
This yoga routine: Simple Yoga Cool Down

What did my exercise routine look like at the beginning? (2 times a week)
10-15 minute walk
5 minutes of light stretching 

What's my goal? (3 times a week)
Run for 15-20 minutes
20-30 minutes of yoga
increased flexibility

How do you find exercising with your autoimmune condition?