Healthy Living

Regular exercise is good for people with chronic conditions

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By Joseph Kato

Posted  Monday, August 25   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

When a person has a chronic health condition, it is unlikely that they will engage in regular fitness programmes for fear of compromising their health. But in fact, fitness and health experts say such people can live a better life if they frequently engaged in exercises such as jogging, walking, yoga and aerobics.

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Would you engage in regular exercise if you suffered from conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell or asthma?
While there are some rare diseases that do not allow a person to engage in regular exercises, Dr Robert Zavuga, the chairperson of the medical commission, of the Uganda Olympic Committee says it (exercise) should always be seen as part of treatment.

“It helps to boost body strength and reverse symptoms of some health conditions,” he says.
However, the exercise a person undertakes will depend on the severity of their health condition, risk factors and advise from the doctor.
Ben Byekwaso a fitness instructor at Mars gym, in Makerere, says he usually encourages light exercise programmes for people who have conditions such as sickle cell and diabetes.

Diabetes
Diabetes is a metabolic disease, in which the body is unable to produce any or enough insulin, causing elevated levels of glucose in the blood.
“People with diabetes should do light exercises such as jogging or running for at least 30 minutes every day,” explains Dr Zavuga.
Walking or jogging, he says, can help a person lose weight, and also lowers the blood sugar levels, thereby improving health.

However, Dr Zavuga says such exercises should be done after consulting with a doctor.
“A person with diabetes should also ensure they continue to take their medication, even if they feel healthy and strong. Having a well-balanced meal before exercising is also encouraged,” notes Dr Zavuga.

Heart diseases
People with heart disease such as cardiac arrhythmia, which results from irregular heartbeat, should not engage in intensive exercises.
“When a person has cardiac arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs,” says Dr Zavuga.
Byekwaso says on the other hand, people who have suffered injuries such as broken limbs or back should not engage in any exercises, until they have been cleared by their doctors.
“Jogging or running when you are recovering from an accident involving the bones may only work to make the situation worse over time,” he says.

Blood pressure
Dr Zavuga says people with high blood pressure can improve their health if they do less strenuous exercises such as walking or running, but on a regular basis.
“Generally the workout does not have to be painful. It only has to work by keeping your blood levels in check, and a normal heartbeat,” he adds. He says checking blood pressures levels regularly is also important.

Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone brittleness and risk of fracture (broken bones), mostly of the hip, spine, wrist and shoulder.

“This condition is common in older persons. Therefore, any adult who suffers from weak bones should consult a doctor on the best exercise they can take part in, without compromising their health,” Dr Zavuga explains.

HIV/Aids
According to Dr Zavuga, people living with HIV can engage in physical or sporting activities such as football and athletics. However, they need to feed well, continue taking their medication and consult with their doctors regularly, in case of any changes in their health.
People living with HIV/Aids also need to test for other opportunitic infections that may affect them before they decide to engage in any fitness programme.

Byekwaso says good diet and exercise are important practices for any chronic illness. If a person is malnourished (not getting enough food), it becomes hard to engage in any exercise. He says underfed people should not engage in intensive exercises.”
Engaging in exercise also helps to fight obesity, by keeping the normal muscle weight, strengthening heart muscle and lowering blood pressure.

Injury prevention
Dr Zavuga advises people with chronic health condition to exercise using particular sports kits such as athlete spikes and soccer boots. “This helps to prevent injuries that could result from a slide or as a result of fatigue,” he says.
For sports personalities, who also have chronic health conditions, Dr Zavuga says they need to be trained by someone who has enough experience and techniques, and should not be subjected to exercises that cause stress,” Dr Zavuga says.
Such people also need to first consult with their doctors, who can them to identify the suitable workout programmes that are in line with their health condition.

Dr Zavuga says taking enough rest and keeping away from stress is also crucial when a person with a chronic illness wants to keep healthy. When you are stressed, then your immunity is also compromised,” says Dr Zavuga.
He adds: “If you have a chronic health condition, visit your doctor to help identify the appropriate exercise for you, and design a training programme that will not affect your health negatively.”

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