Autoimmune Disease

The Importance of Exercise for Autoimmune Disease

woman and baby on yoga mat stretching

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we could have found the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates

During the times of ancient Greece from 460 – 377 BC lived a famous Greek physician named Hippocrates. He was one of only a few doctors who established medicine as a science-based observation rather than a religious superstition and performed medical practices using both clinical and homeopathic methods. In his quote above, he believes that incorporating small amounts of exercise into a daily schedule is one of the best ways to sustain a healthy body both physically and internally. However, for those suffering from autoimmunity or any other illness, this might seem slightly complicated and overwhelming. People with these conditions know what it’s like to constantly feel weak, in pain, and/or have no energy on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, they may also go through extended periods of feeling great before enduring a flare-up. Depending on the disease, these symptoms can be debilitating and have a severe mental toll on the individual coping with it. So, how is someone with little energy expected to be able to exercise? Additionally, won’t exercise make them feel worse? While these are common misconceptions, the answer is quite the opposite.

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we encourage our autoimmune patients to exercise daily during their treatment process due to the various positive effects that exercise has in fighting autoimmune conditions and enhancing treatments.

The Benefits of Exercise

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), scientific evidence confirmed that exercise modified risks for various diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer¹. For those with autoimmune disorders, the ultimate benefit from exercise is that it stabilizes the immune system and decreases the inflammation buildup, causing a decrease in symptoms, improvement of energy levels and an increase in activity of regulatory T cells. Research also reveals that physical activity induces the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals called endorphins that is naturally created by the nervous system to manage pain, stress and improve sleep. Furthermore, endurance of the body improves blood circulation, thus providing nutrients and oxygen to tissues to improve detoxification and eliminate any inflamed areas or infections. Lastly, these chemicals assist in improving brain functions and eliminate brain fog that one might experience due to their autoimmune disorder.

How to Exercise With Autoimmune Disease

While scientific evidence proves that exercise is extremely beneficial for those with autoimmune conditions, many struggle gaining the motivation to start due to their poor health. Thankfully, there are ways to get past this barrier, and it all begins with a change in mentality. When people think of exercise, the first thing that pops into their mind is an intense workout full of difficult maneuvers, sweating, and/or personal trainers. In reality, there are two ways to exercise:

  1. Athletic training – intense workouts to assist athletes in their techniques, forms, endurance and mold their abilities.
  2. Simple exercise – normal physical activity that involves walking, jogging, stretching, and basic forms of moving the body.

When people are informed to exercise, they often have the impression that their practitioners want them to do the first option. In reality, all they need to do is the second option. While exercise is highly encouraged for those with autoimmune disease, it’s possible for too much exercise to trigger a flare-up, hence it’s important to understand how much one’s body can handle. In order to follow a balanced exercise schedule that won’t place one at risk, here are a few tips:

  • Keep Intensity Low: Low-intensity workouts are highly recommended for those with autoimmune conditions because it ensures that the body is receiving proper circulation, blood flow and oxygen while still producing adequate levels of endorphins to improve autoimmune symptoms. Simple daily activities such as walking a dog, riding a bike, stretching or going swimming can make a huge difference in energy levels.
  • Maintain a Consistent Duration: Depending on your condition, beginners should start with a short duration and slowly increase it as they progress through treatment. One should expect to subtract between 30 minutes to one hour out of their day. A short exercise should include 15 minutes of stretching with 15 minutes of normal low-intense activity daily. If energy levels improve, add five minutes to the daily activity.
  • Avoid Gym Classes: Specialized gym classes tend to be more intense than what autoimmune patients can take on. Plus, one would be placed under pressure to keep up with others, which won’t bode well for their health. Until they have energy levels that can match the average individual, it’s best if autoimmune patients exercise on their own and stick to their own pace that works well for them.

Treating Autoimmunity at LifeWorks

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we have a team of qualified professionals that seek out the root cause of various autoimmune conditions. Our practitioners will provide accurate testing to find the inflammation, bacterial infections or other health issues to determine the right treatments for their conditions. Regardless of the autoimmune disorder, exercise is encouraged during the program to help stabilize the immune system and enhance energy levels.

If you or someone that you know is suffering from a form of autoimmunity or other chronic conditions, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners at 727-466-6789.

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About Dr. Minkoff

Dr. David Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then completed both a Pediatric Residency and a Fellowship in Infectious Disease at the University of California at San Diego. He worked at the University of California and Children’s Hospitals in San Diego as an attending physician in infectious disease while conducting original research on Ribaviron, a broad spectrum anti-viral agent to fight disease. He also co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine. In 1992, Dr. Minkoff’s attended a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, widely considered the father of functional medicine, during which he had a eureka moment, and began pursuing the alternative health field with a vengeance, studying under the most accomplished thought leaders on natural & integrative healing. In 1997 Dr. Minkoff and his wife set up a small clinic to help friends with their medical problems. What began as an experiment blossomed into LifeWorks Wellness Center, one of the most successful clinics for complementary medicine in the United States.