Just like everyone else, people with lupus need to exercise regularly or engage in some kind of movement, and most people with lupus can take part in some form of activity. To understand why fitness is so important, it helps to understand what exactly is going on in your body when you work up a sweat.
By Matt McMillen
It’s well known that people lose bone density as they age, particularly postmenopausal women. But there is something you can do to help strengthen your bones: Get moving.
“It’s important to utilize natural ways like exercise to keep bones strong,” says rheumatologist Pascale Schwab, M.D., of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “The best exercises are those that put some strain on your bones in order to stimulate bone growth and reduce bone loss.”
Walking is an ideal choice, says Schwab, because it works the legs, the hips, and even the spine. “It’s a great, low-impact way to work your bones without overburdening your joints,” Schwab says.
Dancing also offers an excellent workout. And perhaps just as important, says Schwab, it involves other people.
“Dancing is great because you rarely dance alone,” Schwab says. “And having a partner or a friend who can keep you accountable is the best way to stick with exercise and be consistent.”
She also recommends light weightlifting to work the muscles and bones in your upper body. Be sure to start slow, and check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine to make sure it’s safe for you, Schwab says.
It’s best to choose an exercise—or two—that you enjoy. That’ll keep you coming back for more. Just ask Nicole Lee, who has developed a passion for martial arts.
“Punching and kicking things helps me feel better and stronger,” says Lee, 44, of San Diego.
On days when she does not feel up to a full workout, she shadow boxes, rides a bike, or goes for a walk. She knows that exercise keeps her bones strong, and that builds her confidence to do other activities she likes, such as riding dirt bikes with her husband.
“Exercise really helps my bones and my body,” Lee says.
Bone health is very important for people with lupus because some treatments increase the risk of osteoporosis, which weakens bones and increases your chances of a break. Also, lupus itself causes loss of bone mass. In fact, women with lupus experience osteoporosis-related fractures almost five times more often than other women. Osteoporosis has no symptoms, so talk to your doctor about prevention or treatment strategies, including:
- Proper nutrition
- Bone density testing
- Healthy lifestyles
Participants in yoga, tai chi, and Pilates all benefit physically and mentally from the exercises. However, there are differences between the forms.