When you have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), you are not merely tired all the time. Any type of exertion can wear you out. What might be an easy task for someone can wind up being terribly problematic for you, and you may feel immobilized by CFS. Rather than succumbing, fight back. Little by little, you can build yourself back up to a place where you can feel proud of what you accomplish.
The daily recommended exercise duration is at least 30 minutes of moderate activity. I am going to tell you to scrap that for now. Anyone with chronic fatigue syndrome knows that 30 minutes of activity feels like an eternity of pain.
Part of the reason CFS is so problematic is because those suffering it are rendered incapable for years of doing much of any activity. Overtime, the body’s physical attributes disintegrate, leaving the sufferer out of shape. So that means you simply can’t go jumping on a treadmill and run a mile. Read on to learn how to exercise with chronic fatigue.
Build yourself up
First, I am going to say this: take it slow. Do not let anyone pressure you into a no pain, no gain mindset. Chronic fatigue syndrome brings elements of “pain” to even the most habitual of actions. And you know well enough there is nothing to gain from it. Be patient with yourself. In other words, you need to understand your limitations and build skyward from there.
Put yourself in the mindset that doing a little something every day is actually more beneficial for you than not doing anything at all. A recent 2016 study on CFS and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) showed that exercise therapy can lessen the symptoms of CFS/ME overtime when compared to the “do nothing” or more passive forms of treatment. Pain was not decreased but participants reported better sleep and daily functioning.
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Start from where you are
I said that before, but it cannot be prefaced enough. If you only have enough energy to lay in bed and do some stretching or lifting your extremities up and down, then that is what you do. If you have the power to move more dramatically, start with calisthenics (body weight exercises) first. Some examples include:
- chair yoga stretches
- wall sits
- wall push-ups
- arm circles
- leg swings and lifts – while standing, find balance on one leg and swing the free one forward and back. Gradually shift to more muscular movement, such as extending the leg out in front of you and engaging the entire body as you lift the foot a couple of inches from the ground
- toe touches
- reverse crunches (supine)
- prone back extensions (Pilates YTIs)
- bodyweight squats
- standing calf raises
- isometric sumo squats – hold the sumo squat position low for several sections. You can do one long sustained round or do several but for less time per repetition.
The above mentioned exercises are meant to slowly build up strength. If you are looking to build up some cardio-endurance, do not hop into a Zumba class or spin class.
Take it slow
Go for a short 5-10 minute walk up and down your driveway. Climb the stairs up and down a few times if you have them. Take frequent breaks. Be kind to your body. And in the essence of being kind to your body, sign yourself up for some restorative yoga classes. Restorative yoga is much less dynamic that other forms of yoga and is perfect for someone who needs to move more slowly and mindfully.
Be realistic and patient
Chronic fatigue syndrome might have reduced you to lying in bed all-day, but it doesn’t have to keep you there. Understand that there will be days after working out even for 5 minutes leaves you feeling like a puddle. It is important to accept that will happen, but do not discourage yourself from continuing on.
The strength of heart comes from knowing that by increasing your physical strength, you can overcome the obstacles CFS has laid out for you. It will not be easy, but you will see results. Some things will come more slowly than others, and that is okay too. Be patient. By fostering tolerance for what you cannot do yet, you will stay motivated in your pursuit of a longer, more fulfilling life.
Work at least 10 minutes of activity into your day and stick to it. The commitment will pay off, I promise you. But also find balance. Do not overdo it, because that will only worsen the symptoms and set you backwards.
Lastly, do not hesitate to alternate between exercises. If you get bored or find that something becomes too easy, challenge yourself. When the body is spurred to change, it will do so by gaining strength and fortitude. Also, make sure you see your doctor if you feel worse after your workout.