Why is exercise so important in managing lupus, and what exercises could I do with lupus?
Whether or not a person has lupus, exercise is an important way to take care of yourself. Exercise has many physical, emotional and social benefits. It is particularly helpful for people with lupus for many reasons, and most people with lupus can take part in some form of activity.
From a physical standpoint, exercise can strengthen parts of your body that may be affected by lupus — the heart, lungs, bones and joints. It can help reduce inflammation by regulating some of the chemicals involved in the inflammation process. Exercise can help control weight gain caused by use of corticosteroid medications and keep your body conditioned. It can also reduce fatigue. Regular exercise and even simple low-impact movement will make muscles less stiff, increase your range of motion and help you reduce the risk of heart disease.
Exercise may also boost your mental health, making it easier to cope with life stressors and potentially improving mood and self-esteem. Exercising with a buddy can give you the moral support to stick with your exercise routine while making your fitness time double as social time.
Be sure to discuss your exercise plans with your physician or exercise specialist in order to maximize results and minimize possible harm. Activities such as walking, swimming, bicycling, low-impact aerobics, certain types of yoga, Pilates, stretching, water exercise or using an elliptical exercise machine will strengthen your bones and tone your muscles without aggravating inflamed joints. At the same time, these activities help to lower the risk for developing osteoporosis. It’s also a good idea to vary the exercises, so that different muscle groups all get a regular workout.
If you are experiencing swollen joints or muscle pain, you should avoid or at least limit activities that may be demanding on joints and muscles, such as jogging, weightlifting, or high-impact aerobics.
If you find that you tire easily when you exercise, you should pace yourself. The most important thing to remember is to not give up exercising, as muscles that are not used will quickly become weak.
Medically reviewed on September 30, 2013