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Gentle Ways To Exercise

December 11, 2017

Chronic health conditions can have an impact your quality of life. Regular exercise can help improve overall health as it is a core foundation of wellness.

Exercise promotes mental health, improves cardiovascular health, builds muscle and bone strength and improves circulation. It also helps to remove toxins from the body to help the lymphatic system circulate. Gentle exercise is recommended for people who have any kind of serious health complaint like fibromyalgia, chronic migraine, osteoarthritis, diabetes, asthma and other long term health issues. The Australian Government introduced care plans several years ago to facilitate better management of chronic conditions. This allows a general practitioner to send patients to allied health professionals to help manage these conditions.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an exercise that has existed in China for thousands of years and is now practiced worldwide. It is highly recommended for people with chronic health problems such as arthritis. Because of its gentle flow and fluid movement of the body, Tai Chi is a good exercise for those who have difficulty moving. It helps create range of motion, flexibility, balance and strength and stability in muscles and joints.

People who participate in Tai Chi have reported better overall health. Studies have connected Tai Chi to numerous beneficial health outcomes. It can often be supplemented with other forms of no or low impact exercise such as yoga, hydrotherapy and walking.

 

Yoga

Yoga originated in India about 5000 years ago as a path to spiritual enlightenment but has become popular as a gentle form of exercise to help relieve stress.   Yoga uses physical, mental and spiritual practices to develop a healthy and harmonious lifestyle. Yoga postures (asana) were designed to work with breath awareness and meditation,

Some of the health benefits of Yoga include:

·         Increased cardiovascular fitness & circulation

·         Improved blood circulation which can speed up a sluggish digestion and help soothe the nervous system by easing muscle tension

·         Increase mobility and flexibility and encourage strength and endurance

Long term use can see improvements in posture and reduced back pain, reduced stress, better concentration and energy levels and increased feelings of calm and well-being.

 While there are many varieties of yoga, they all work to the same goal. Yoga is suitable for a range of people from children to elderly and people with mobility issues; the postures can be modified to suit the need of the individual.

 

 Pilates

Pilates (or the Pilates method) is a series of about 500 exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet. Pilates lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. It improves flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness.

Some of the health benefits of Pilates include:

  • Improved flexibility
  • Increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
  • Balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
  • Enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs
  • Improved stabilisation of your spine
  • Improved posture
  • Rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
  • Improved physical coordination and balance
  • Safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
  • Prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
  • Increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
  • Improved concentration
  • Increased body awareness
  • Stress management and relaxation.

While Pilates is a low impact exercise, it is recommended that you consult your doctor if you have any pre-existing conditions or disorders, just had surgery or are very overweight or obese.

Pool Walking, Swimming and Hydrotherapy

Swimming, pool walking and hydrotherapy are excellent ways to exercise, since they are no impact and don’t put pressure on your joints. Resistance is offered as you move through the water but you are not likely to injure your joints; the water prevents you jarring them as you might with land based exercise. Water-based exercises work every part of the body that is submerged and is suitable for people with mild to chronic health issues.

For a lot of people, water-based exercise can be more enjoyable than land based. This means they are more likely to do it for longer and more often. This in turn will increase fitness and reduce muscle or joint pain. Feeling physically better means that you are more likely to feel better mentally.

Some of the health benefits of aquatic exercise:  

  • Increased cardiovascular health and fitness  
  • Development of muscle strength and conditioning
  • Assist with weight management, breathing and lung capacity
  • Improved mental well being

 

Walking

Gentle strolling is a simple and effective way to keep up your general wellbeing. A brisk 30 minutes each day can increase cardiovascular wellness, strengthen bones, decrease the amount of fat in the body and increase muscle strength and endurance. Walking can lower the risk of developing: 

  • Type 2 Diabetes as it lowers the amount of circulating glucose in the blood
  • Osteoarthritis as it promotes bone strengthening and encourages the development of bone density
  • Coronary illness as it strengthens the heart and lungs and promotes flexibility in the vasculature of the body through exercise

Walking is a very common way to exercise for all ages as it does not require any special abilities or equipment. Safe and stable walking shoes that facilitate ease of movement and correct posture while walking, however, are recommended in order to prevent injury.

 Summary

Exercise and physical activity does not need to be overwhelming. There are many forms of gentle exercise that people with chronic illness or physical limitations can do under medical supervision. Severely obese people who are high risk for health problems are encouraged to exercise via gentle movement for five minutes at a time several times per day in a cool environment. This has helped to eradicate disease and gain a sense of mastery over their weight issues.

 Studies have demonstrated even low levels of activity, when done regularly, will improve health and overall wellbeing. If you are new to regular exercise or returning after a prolonged absence, it is important to visit your doctor and get a medical assessment. They may then refer you to a physiotherapist or other fitness expert to get you started safely on a program tailored to your needs and goals.