Healthy Living

Exercise Tips for Those with Lupus

Exercise Tips for Those with Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterized by the immune system attacking the organs and tissues. The inflammation triggered by lupus can disturb a patient's joints, blood cells, skin, kidneys, heart and lungs, and brain.

Lupus is challenging to diagnose since it mimics the symptoms of other disorders. The best way to diagnose lupus is a rash on the face similar to the wings of a butterfly. This rash, however, does not occur in all cases of lupus.

Certain drugs, sunlight or infections can trigger lupus. There is no cure for lupus, but there are treatments to help control symptoms.

The most common symptoms of lupus include fatigue, joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. You may experience fever, butterfly-shaped rash, photosensitivity or sensitive to the sun exposure.  Raynaud’s phenomenon of the fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold and stress is a distressing symptom. Shortness of breath, dry eyes, headaches, confusion, memory loss, and chest pain are symptoms.

To those who have lupus, the very idea of exercising can bring on stress and painful thoughts. Your joints ache, you are exhausted, and you just want to lay down and not move. Exercise is alright, even if you have lupus. It prevents weight gain, builds stronger muscles, prevents joint stiffness, and controls fatigue. Do check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program.

Exercise is awesome!

A professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, David Wofsy, MD, stresses low-impact exercise for those with lupus. Even low impact exercise can improve your range of motion, ease muscle stiffness, and improve your muscle strength. Also, the American College of Rheumatology advises those with lupus to try four types of exercise including flexibility, aerobic, body awareness, and strengthening exercises.

  • Aerobic exercise or cardio includes dancing, water exercises, walking or even bicycling. Using the body’s large muscles, these exercises improve heart and lung function.
  • Flexibility exercise is stretching and a range-of-motion movements. Flexibility exercises reduce stiffness and helps you move easier.
  • Strengthening exercises are resistance training or weight-lifting. Strengthening exercise works muscles and contributes to joint support.

Other exercises known as body awareness exercises, design workouts geared toward those with joint pain. These body-shaping programs include Pilates, tai chi, and yoga. All improve coordination, posture, and balance.

Mental health and exercise

About 60% of those with chronic and incurable diseases have clinical depression. Exercise can improve depression symptoms. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2008, proved that just 20 minutes of physical exertion a week would provide benefits to mental health. Gardening, doing household chores, walking pets, or just walking around the neighborhood offer lower levels of depression and distress.

Reduce fatigue

Fatigue is common in those with lupus. Almost 80% of those with lupus feel tired, run-down and sluggish; all you want to do is sit and rest. Exercises might seem complicated, but activity increases your energy levels. In 70 studies on exercise, 90% of the studies proved exercise improved fatigue symptoms.

Prevents side effects of medications

Steroids or prednisone are lupus medications that contribute to weight gain. Steroids also increase your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels by leading to an increase in appetite. If you take steroids for lupus control, exercise will help you manage the side effects of weight gain and blood sugar spikes.