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How to get the most out of “exercise” when you have chronic illness and pain – Part 1

When we are in the middle of chronic illness and pain exercise is rarely a consideration. Transporting our hurting bodies from the bed to the sofa takes as much energy as a marathon. A daily shower is laughable but sometimes a requirement so we painfully get through it and need the afternoon to recover from the event. If you have never had chronic illness and pain don’t worry, we don’t expect for your brain to wrap around this. We would never wish for you to go through it. For those of us who have experienced it or have watched loved ones struggle through it, we get it. So, how in the world do you even consider exercise in this state? There is always a way!

Many of us know what it is like to endure the pain of having to walk from the bed to the sofa and the exhaustion of a simple shower. Agonizing does not describe it. Some would say we just need to exercise more and push through it. Of course, they are right, sort of. Try forcing exercise with a body in the middle of chronic illness and pain, impossible, sort of. It is so crucial that we move, even in the slightest, every single day, no matter what. The depths of this spiraling cycle make it look and feel impossible but for those fighters, read on.

If you are in your absolute worst state and you really cannot exercise then here are some suggestions that help your brain (neurology) which may help move you out of that spiral.

Every single day pick one or all of these:

  • Make a Mark: Pick up a pen/pencil and write something even if it is only a mark on a piece of paper. The act of having to locate the pen/pencil with eye movement and motor skills helps with brain mapping ( the relationship between structure and function in the human brain) making it work neurologically like it should which sets you in the right motion. If you can color or hand write a journal or a note to someone, that would be ideal. If not, make one mark and be delighted with yourself. Technical Ted Talk on Brain Mapping.
  • Power Pose: Portrait of boy standing with hand on hip pretending to be a supYou don’t have to walk or even take one step. If you are able to stand put your hands on your hips for 2 straight minutes. It is best if someone can stand next to you for balance and safety. Some claim the Power Pose decreases cortisol and increases testosterone.  In the very least it increases blood flow, sense of energy and self-esteem.
  • Sit Outside: Simply sit outside even for 5 minutes a day. Do not take a computer or cell phone. Just sit there. Look around. Look at things close up like your front porch and loyal pet at your side. Watch a flag move in the breeze if you have one. Look at things in the near distance like flowers in the yard, the mailbox or a passing vehicle. Look at things in the far distance like neighbors houses and trees blowing in the wind. Don’t forget to look at the clouds. The act of making your eyes look at all of those different things and movements is an exercise for the brain which leads to better neurology which helps with overall health putting you on a better path. The longer you can do this the better but do it every day that you can possibly get outside. Get help to get there but GET OUTSIDE.  Look at the featured image again – we need to look at things in layers. Human eyes help provide a three dimensional, moving image when we get off of our phones and computers.
  • Grounding/Earthing: If you are able, take off your shoes and put your bare feet on the ground while you are looking around.

    Studies have shown that earthing or grounding improves blood viscosity, heart rate variability, inflammation, cortisol dynamics, sleep, autonomic nervous system (ANS) balance, and reduces effects of stress. Read Dr. Mercola’s article.

    If it is cold outside then you can use a warm foot bath when you return inside, stimulating even more senses.

  • Sunrise & Sunset: If you are able to, sit outside at sunrise and sunset. For one, this helps you set your circadian rhythm which contributes to better sleep.  If you can only do one or the other, do it. Do what you can. Have someone wheel you outside. Have someone create a hammock or cot situation so you can lay down. Whatever it takes, get outside for the fresh air, sunshine and the eye movement that leads to better neurological function.
  • Window Viewing: If you do not have the help to get outside, waddle/roll/crawl to a window (as long as it does not put you at risk) and look through the window. Look at things at different distances the best you can. Laying in bed with a window uncovered so you can see the sunrise and sunset is actually a fun activity.
  • Music: Listen to different kinds of music. It has an impact on your brain. Have you ever heard that listening to Mozart in the womb creates a higher IQ in children? There are all kinds of research to prove the impact of music on the brain. Alzheimers patients have responded very well to music. While you are laying in pain and it truly is impossible to move, listen to different kinds of music to get your brain moving. Same with smell and touch. There is your excuse for fresh flowers by your bed and a massage! Stimulating any of our senses has an impact on our brain.

Your brain will appreciate these exercises and it will contribute towards neurological health. It all counts as exercise when you are in this state of debilitating chronic illness and pain. It is a big deal. Give yourself huge kudos for every victory.

I would love to hear about your victories.

Maribeth Baxter, MBEC

LOGO - 2017-12

Donations accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.

HEALTH COACH DISCLAIMER Health/Wellness coaching is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. It is not intended to substitute for the advice, treatment and/or diagnosis of a qualified licensed professional. Trained Health Coaches may not make any medical diagnoses, claims and/or substitute for your personal physician’s care. As your health/wellness coach I do not provide a second opinion or in any way attempt to alter the treatment plans or therapeutic goals/recommendations of your personal physician. It is my role to partner with you to provide ongoing support and accountability as you create an action plan to meet and maintain your health goals.


1 thought on “How to get the most out of “exercise” when you have chronic illness and pain – Part 1

  1. […] ideas to “exercise” by getting the brain moving when you cannot get the body moving in Part 1. Now let’s look at how to “exercise” when you are able to take a few […]

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