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Staying Active With a Chronic Injury or Illness

Staying Active with a Chronic Injury or Illness

Quick Facts

  • 85% of those aged 46-64 and 93% of those 65+ either have a chronic condition such as diabetes, arthritis, back pain, heart disease and cancer or are at risk of developing one due to modifiable lifestyle behaviours such as physical inactivity, poor eating and smoking.
  • Physical activity can:
    • Control blood glucose levels in diabetes
    • Reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in almost all conditions
    • Improve walking tolerance and function in hip and knee arthritis
    • Reduce cancer related fatigue and increase life expectancy in breast and prostate cancer survivors
    • Improve physical activity and symptoms in chronic lung conditions
    • Control pain and improve function in chronic low back pain
  • Best practice guidelines recommend physical activity as part of the management for most major chronic diseases including heart disease, lung conditions, cancer, low back pain, arthritis and diabetes.
  • For health benefits, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week but 85% of Canadian adults are currently not getting enough exercise.

Lack of confidence, knowing what’s safe, and fear of aggravating the condition are the biggest deterrents when it comes to physical activity for people with chronic conditions. However, experts agree that physical activity improves health, quality of life and in some cases may actually reverse the progression of some chronic conditions.

If you have a chronic condition that limits your ability to exercise regularly, here are a few tips to help you get started in achieving your New Year’s Resolution.

1. Get support
To build your confidence and understanding of how to exercise safety with a chronic condition, work with a health professional that understands how to exercise safely and understands your condition. Physiotherapists are uniquely qualified to design exercise programs specifically geared to your condition.

2. Find the right environment
Find an environment where you feel safe, can build confidence and experience early success. This could be a community centre, a health-care facility, a pool or even a fitness facility. The point is to find an environment where you feel comfortable and not intimidated.

3. Create structure
Having pre-set structures will help support you in staying active. Set goals that are important to you and that you are confident you can achieve in the short term. Identify possible barriers that may block you from achieving your goals. Identify time, place and activities that will work for you and your life.

4. Get social
Share your goals with others who will be supportive. Enlist family members, friends, co-workers, pets, etc. to exercise with.

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