Lupus and Exercise

For people with lupus, even the thought of exercising can be painful. You’re tired, achy, and just want to rest. That’s a lot to overcome. But research shows that exercise can help those with lupus build stronger muscles, prevent joint stiffness, control fatigue, and avoid weight gain. Below we’ll outline the benefits of exercise for those with lupus and what you can do to improve your life.

Benefits of Working Out with Lupus

There are many physical and mental benefits of working out with lupus. Exercise with lupus:

  • Prevents fatigue. Staying physically active helps prevent fatigue, which is a major symptom of lupus. Studies have shown that lupus patients who participate in an aerobic exercise program are able to reduce fatigue and have more energy during the day.
  • Decreases risk of heart disease. Aerobic exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for people with lupus.
  • Avoids obesity. Obesity is a common problem in people with lupus because it can affect the severity of fatigue and increase the amount of pain felt in joints. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial for lupus patients.
  • Prevents osteoporosis. Strength training can help prevent osteoporosis, a condition to which women are especially vulnerable. 
  • Improves sleep habits. Aerobic exercise helps improve sleep, which can be an issue for those suffering from lupus.
  • Improves mental health. Exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which are all conditions typically experienced by those with lupus.

What Is Lupus?

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Best Exercises for People with Lupus

Different types of exercises benefit lupus patients in different ways. Here are some exercises that have proven successful with lupus patients:

  • Aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise helps reduce fatigue and improve cardiovascular strength. Lower-impact exercises, such as dance, bike riding, aquatics, and elliptical and arc trainers are best for people with lupus.
  • Strength training. Strength training helps maintain muscle strength and prevent osteoporosis. Free weights and elastic resistance bands are examples of strength training but be careful not to lift weights that are too heavy.
  • Flexibility and stretching. This will help you maintain full mobility and range of motion in your joints. Pilates and yoga are good examples of flexibility and stretching exercises.

Safety Tips for Exercising with Lupus

While exercise is beneficial for people with lupus, it’s important to not overdo it and maintain safe exercising practices. Here are some safety tips that can help:

  • Avoid outdoor exercises (if possible). Sunlight can trigger lupus flares. If you do exercise outside, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat, and use sunscreen.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel like you’re overdoing it, you probably are. Exercise when your symptoms are minimal. Don’t push too far in terms of length or intensity. Everyone’s different, so know the limits of your body.
  • Start slow. Start out with easy, light exercises for short periods of time. Gradually increase as you start feeling stronger. If you experience pain after your workout that lasts for more than two hours, then you probably did too much.
  • Don’t exercise through joint pain. If your joints feel hot, swollen, or tender, don’t work out because it’ll only make your symptoms worse. 
  • Consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Make sure to talk with your doctor to ensure that you’re not pushing it and that you have the best workout regimen for you.

Learn More About Lupus Exercise Programs from Baptist Health

If you’re looking to start a lupus exercise program, find your nearest Baptist Health Women’s Health provider today.

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