If you suffer from chronic pain, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But movement is often a potent medicine. For people with certain afflictions — like degenerative disc disease — remaining sedentary can often intensify the pain.
Of course, the best type of exercise depends on your condition, goals, and pain level on any given day. You’ll sometimes have the strength to push through a vigorous workout. Other times, you may need something low-key.
Either way, physical activity is beneficial to your overall health, so give one of these seven sports you can play with chronic pain below a try. You might just amaze yourself with how good you feel.
1. Walking or Running
All you need for a great cardiovascular workout is a pair of walking shoes. Walking is an ideal form of exercise for people with conditions ranging from fibromyalgia to heart disease. Best of all, it’s both low-impact and free.
You can walk outdoors for additional mood-boosting benefits as well. Spending time outside gives you a double dose of endorphins. That said, if the weather isn’t the best, you’ll probably want to visit the local mall or climb on a treadmill.
You might think running is out of the question if you have pain. While it’s true that you may not want to run a marathon if you have a severe condition, the additional heart rate boost can alleviate pain substantially. The best idea is to start slow and listen to your body. If your aches start to hurt too much, stop the workout.
If you have a condition such as arthritis that makes moving around on land a challenge, why don’t you take your workout into the water? The buoyancy supports a sizeable percentage of your body weight, making movement more comfortable on stiff joints.
If you don’t want to get your hair wet, don’t worry. You can walk laps in the pool or do an aquatic exercise routine that burns fat and tones muscles.
3. Tai Chi
You might think of tai chi as a martial art, and it is — but you won’t have to endure bruises or spar with anyone. Even though this form of exercise originated as self-defense, many modern practitioners consider it meditation in motion.
It uses slow, gentle movements accompanied by deep breathing to tone and stretch your muscles. Because it’s noncompetitive and nonimpact, it’s ideal if you want a relaxed form of exercise that doesn’t jar your joints or spine.
Some days, you need a slow-paced activity that doesn’t take much time or energy. If it’s your rest day, or you’re under the weather, why not try fishing?
If you don’t have the equipment, you can often rent it at a local tackle shop. You’ll enjoy the fresh air and nature, and if you make it a family affair, you’ll bond with your loved ones, too. It’s an easy way to stay active that won’t strain or stress you.
Lifting weight builds muscle, which can help you prevent injury and perform activities of daily living with ease. If you’re new to the sport, it’s a good idea to work out with a personal trainer for your first few sessions. They can guide you to perfect your form, which helps prevent injury.
Once you’re comfortable performing moves independently, you don’t even need a gym membership. You can find light hand weights and resistance bands inexpensively at any department store. Keep them stowed under your couch, so you can squeeze in a few biceps curls during TV commercials.
Dance is an ideal form of exercise, especially if you’re concerned about dementia. Unlike other types of workouts, it involves both a mental and a physical component. Physically, it gets the blood flowing to your brain, bathing your neurons in oxygen and rinsing away toxins.
Mentally, you need to follow the instructor’s choreography, improving your concentration and focus.
If you have chronic pain that stems from muscle spasms, you can’t go wrong with yoga. This form of exercise goes back at least 5,000 years — and anything with that kind of staying power has to work.
While some yoga classes go well over an hour, you can perform a few asanas in minutes throughout your day. A five-minute stretch can be a lifesaver if you spend long hours laboring at the computer or standing in one place — anything that lets your muscles grow stiff.
Try One of These Seven Sports You Can Play with Chronic Pain Today
You can stay active even if you have chronic pain. Movement may help you feel better, and it can only improve your health — so get to the gym today!
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