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Staying Active When You Have Lupus
It can be hard to get active when you have lupus symptoms — but physical activity can actually ease your symptoms and help you feel better! Learn about the benefits of being active and find activities that work for you.
Get the benefits of physical activity
Regular physical activity can lower your risk of serious health problems like heart disease and osteoporosis. It can also help reduce inflammation and ease lots of different lupus symptoms. For example, being active can help:
- Reduce fatigue (feeling tired) and boost energy
- Make muscles and joints less stiff
- Manage weight gain caused by lupus medicines, like steroids
Inflammation usually happens when your immune system is fighting an infection or an injury. When lupus makes your immune system attack healthy body parts, it can cause inflammation in many areas of your body. Symptoms can include swelling and pain, making physical activity challenging. Read more about inflammation
Find activities that work for you
Physical activity isn’t one-size-fits-all — so find activities that you enjoy and that work for your body. Follow these tips to get started.
Try gentle, low-impact activities
Many people with lupus have problems with their joints. Low-impact activities can be easier on your joints and bones and make activity feel more comfortable. Walking more is a great way to start! Try taking a walk around your neighborhood before work or after dinner.
You can also check out this low-impact exercise routine for people with lupus — or try these great low-impact options:
- Water aerobics
- Tai chi
If you prefer high-impact activities like running, consult with your doctor to make sure it’s fine to keep doing them. Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about joint problems or you feel pain during activity.
Spending time outdoors is great for your physical and mental health. But most people with lupus are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light — so when you get active outdoors, take steps to protect your skin:
- Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 or higher that blocks both UVA and UVB rays
- Wear long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat
- Plan outdoor activities for early in the morning or later in the evening
Fit physical activity into your routine
If you don’t have time for long workouts, just do what you can! Start with just 5 minutes a day and build up to more over time. Remember that some activity is always better than nothing. Try these tips to work more activity into your daily life:
- When you’re watching TV, get active during commercial breaks — try some yoga, stretching, push-ups or sit-ups
- Engage in active chores — like walking the dog, raking leaves, or washing the car
- Make social activities more active — invite friends and family to join you for a walk or a hike at a local park
Listen to your body
If an activity feels uncomfortable or painful, stop doing it! There’s no need to push through pain and risk an injury. Try different activities until you find things that feel right for you. And remember that it’s always okay to take breaks and give your body time to rest and recover.
If you feel sore after activity, heat can help ease sore muscles and joints. Try taking a hot shower or soaking in a hot bath.
If you use the RICE, or the Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, method it’s important to proceed with caution while using. Focus this method on large muscles such as legs, arms, or back. If you have been diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease, the RICE method is not recommended for use as ice can trigger the disease in fingers or toes.
If you’re not sure what activities are safe for you, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can recommend safe activities or refer you to a physical therapist (a specialist who helps with exercise and movement).