Making time for Exercise

People with Sjögren’s have diminished cardiovascular conditioning (aerobic capacity), stamina and joint mobility.  They also are impaired significantly by fatigue, anxiety, and depression.  Exercise keeps muscles from atrophying, increases range of motion, and increases flexibility in both body and mind.  For some, there is a spiritual side to exercise too; it is literally good for the soul.  Some kinds of repetitive exercise can be like meditation.

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous.  It can be mild, gentle, and pleasurable.  Even mild exercise increases energy and well-being.  It clears the mind and increases the sense of control.

Some people with Sjögren’s have trouble with exercise, so the key is finding something that is right for you and not doing too much too soon, or even exercising under the supervision of a physical therapist.  We suggest finding an activity you like, and if possible, doing it with someone.  The presence of another person provides an impetus to get up and go on those days when you don’t feel like it.  You might try a dual exercise program, for days when you feel well and days when you don’t.

Both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities are critical for healthy aging.  Patients should consult with a health care professional before beginning their exercise routine.  The following recommendations are based on the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association 2007 guidelines for exercise in older adults over 65 or younger adults with chronic health conditions.

  1. Do moderately intense aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week or vigorously intense aerobic exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a weekModerate-intensity aerobic exercise means working hard at about a level-six intensity on a scale of 10 (0 = rest, 10 = extreme exertion).  You should be able to carry on a conversation during moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and reach a heart rate 50% to 55% of maximum predicted heart rate is (220 – your current age).  Intense aerobic exercise results in perspiration and shortness of breathe, making it difficult to carry out a conversation (heart rate 70% to 80% of maximum predicted).
  2. Do 8 to 10 strength-training exercises, 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, two or three times per week.
  3. If you are at risk of falling, perform balance exercises.
  4. Develop your physical activity plan with a health professional or physical therapist.

Yoga or Tai Chi for 1 hour could also be performed in place of the combined strengthening and balance recommendations (items 2 and 3 above).  Yoga can provide many benefits to patients with rheumatic disease, including pain relief, better flexibility, and improved quality of life.

All of the above exercises are more than just physical activity.  It relieves stress, anxiety, and depression.  Even if it’s moderate, exercise can feel like an accomplishment.

*excerpts taken from “The Sjögren’s Book” & “The Sjögren’s Syndrome Survival Guide”