Monday, May 16, 2011

Exercise and Lupus- A frequent discussion

The Lupus Foundation of America often does these awesome segments called "15 Questions".  They ask a leading expert in the field a few question (*ahem*, fifteen of them to be exact) on various topics.  This month I'm happy to see the following:

15 Questions with Mrs. Gina Cortese-Shipley– Exercising and Staying Fit with Lupus  (Link)
She looks nice, friendly even.

"This month's 15 questions is brought to you by Mrs. Cortese-Shipley, an exercise physiologist with The Cooper Institute in Texas. She has an M.S. in Exercise Physiology from Texas A & M University and a B.S. in Exercise Science and Health and Wellness from Washington State University". 

I wonder if she's a Washington native?  Go Huskies, btw.

So, I've decided to highlight the questions that Mrs. Cortese-Shipley answered that kinda pertain to me and what I've been pondering for the past few years.

1. What are the best exercises to do for lupus; yoga, core strength, cardio, etc.? How long and how often should we workout?
Mrs. C.S. says to do basically anything you can do consistently.  "In general, low-impact, low-to-moderate intensity exercise programs are best for those with lupus."  She points out the pretty obvious benefits of cardiovascular exercise, muscle strengthening, and flexibility.  Specifically she called out yoga/core strength exercises.  Not only does yoga help with flexibility and muscle tone, but it is also stress-relieving.  And guess what I did this morning?  Hey-o!  I owe my yoga workout all to my Three Minute Eggs.
I can totally do that.

2. I am so tired when I get home from work I just want to lay down.  How can I exercise when I am so tired?
Ugh.  I deal with this all the time.  I already knew the answer though- once you start, it actually feels better and you have more energy.  It may decrease your fatigue overall.  It's good stuff.  And now that I'm not in grad school anymore (Hey-o!) I may be tired but I'll actually have time to exercise.  

4. I know it is important for joint and muscle health to exercise. However, it tends to make my pain worse. How do I know when it's ok to push on through the pain, and when I should listen to my body and stop?  
I always question this, as cardio immediately makes my knees and hips bitchy.  Here's the expert's full answer.  Unfortunately, her answer is basically that you won't know if you overdid it until afterwards:  "A good rule of thumb to follow -  if joint or muscle pain lasts for more than 2 hours after exercising, you have done too much. Other signs that you have pushed yourself too hard are unusual or persistent fatigue (greater than what you typically experience), increased weakness, decreased range of motion, and increased joint swelling. If any of the previous occur, it would be important for you to reduce the amount of activity you are doing. In terms of resistance training, this may mean decreasing the amount of weight you are lifting. In terms of cardiovascular work, you may have to decrease your pace or decrease the time of your exercise session. You may even have to stop and allow your body to rest and recover before starting up again. Also remember that your body may be able to handle more work at certain times and than others. Be sure to create a flexible exercise program that can accommodate this. And use your common sense. I think most of us know when we are pushing ourselves too hard!"

Read it all, people, especially that last part I bolded!  I know for the past couple months I've been pushing myself too much.

7. Taking into consideration the increased photosensitivity of those with lupus, what are some safe ways to exercise outdoors and get out of the gym? Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Note that the question asked her is from Puerto Rico.  Yeah, I would exercise outside, too.  However, I don't want to rock one of these looks:
No offense to the sun-protection clothing carriers, I'm sure they have helped a lot of people.  That's not hot, though.  Put on sunscreen often and everywhere, that's the main point here, folks.

13. On a weekly basis, I swim 2-3 times, then offset with gym cardio class or elliptical trainer 2-3 times during same week. Now that I am eating better using WW, I lost 13lbs in 3mths.  How do i incorporate a continue weight loss goal (I have another 8-10 lbs.) if I can't make it to the gym or swim that day? (I tried a similar P90x workout program yet was too intense on my joints, so stop.)
My first thought: That cocky bitch- she can do all that in one week?!  Moving on from the petty thoughts that creep in occasionally.... weight loss is of concern to me as I've put on between 7-10 pounds in the course of grad school (not bad for two car accidents, lupus, and the diet and exercise regimen of a busy social worker writing a thesis).  
"There are a number of exercise options we can do right at home or work. Walking is a great one. How long and how intensely will depend on how your body responds to it. Stair climbing is another option again if your body can handle it. Find a stairwell at work and throw on your sneakers at lunch and walk the stairs. If you own a bicycle you can use it for your cardiovascular exercise or even use it as an active mode of transportation instead of your car!"  
I walk... I've been rockin' my shapeups.  As much as possible I walk, even at work.  Walking to talk to a colleague burns more calories than calling.  No stairwell at work, but stairs make me embarrassingly wheezy anyway.  I would love to bike to work, but I'm not quite up to 20+ miles both ways (and uphill in the morning, oy!).  
The good doctor also recommends various workout videos and looking into home fitness equipment. I'm working on home fitness equipment... I'm currently unemployed so I need to convince my hubby to invest in my health (and my figure, let's be honest here, people).

Great 15 Questions- Lupus Foundation!  Keep up the great work!

I look forward to being out of school.  I've already had my first homework-free weekend.  It was... weird.  I felt all anxious like I was forgetting something.  But I did tons of walking and housework.  I did yoga this morning and counted my calories like a good girl.  I feel like I'm on my way.  

So, here's a question to you, my fellow lupies (I'm trying out names tonight)... What would your exercise question be to Mrs. Cortese-Shipley? 


  1. Can overdoing the exercise cause flares....I assume the answer to this might be yes. But can it cause permanent damage to joints, tissues, etc.

  2. It depends on the person, really- each person has different things that cause flares. To be more specific- exercise can cause joint pain for me. Exercise doesn't necessarily cause my other flare symptoms- rash, costocondritis, etc. Also, it depends on how in-shape you are. The more strength you have around your joints the less exercise could cause a flare. It's a matter of knowing your limits, not overdoing it, and making note of how long it takes you to recover. One- maybe two days of soreness is normal. If you are unable to function normally or if you're out for several days you need to lighten up a bit.
    In terms of permanent damage- this can be prevented by talking to your doctor. My knees, for example, have very little cushion in them. My doctor STRONGLY encourages me to NOT run. Also, once again, strengthening around your joints prevents damage caused by higher-impact exercise. Low-impact for people with joint pain is almost always better.