Exercise

You’re already exercising. I promise.

Even if you consider yourself bed bound and unable to move or do anything, you’re reading this. That means you’re exercising your mind. If you lifted up a phone or tablet or computer to get to this post, that’s exercise.

My point is that, even when your energy levels are at rock bottom, there is something you can do.

There are pages-galore across the internet debating the pros and cons of Graded Exercise Therapy, or GET. It’s a controversial solution that forms part of the process of treating ME and CFS by some health professionals. Many people say it is damaging and dangerous. There’s growing evidence to back that view.

For what it’s worth, in my own experience, GET is terrible. Anything that gets me to do more than I could do the previous time I tried entirely misunderstands the horror of ‘payback’ and the necessity of ‘pacing’.

Payback is that delayed response to overdoing it. If I take on too much today (and that could mean a long walk or a meal out with friends or a difficult conversation) I can easily experience payback in the form of needing to lie down or sleep for the following two or three days.

Pacing means I learn to ration my energy so there’s always power in my internal battery. And by learning how much energy specific activities need, I can make sure I stay the right side of ‘too much’. That means I can avoid payback.

So where does exercise fit into all this?

Well those who oppose GET can easily fall into the trap of opposing exercise.

It’s important to remain as mobile and active as you personally can. That could be walking from your bed to the kitchen to make a brew, or it could be a stroll into town to buy a newspaper. It all counts of exercise, and it’s important to keep it up.

I went through a phase of looking at the step counter on my mobile phone. It quickly became the tail that wagged the dog, and I found myself overdoing it just to get my activity up. That became a false economy.

But I’ve also been through a phase of under-doing things. Because my mind was focused on what I can’t do, rather than what I can do, I was retreating into myself and doing nothing.

Exercise, in whatever form, has multiple benefits.

That short stroll means you get fresh air. It means you breathe in the world around you and your worries can drift away. You may bump into somebody and exchange pleasantries or simply say hello to the newsagent. That social interaction is so important.

I’ve found listening to interesting podcasts through my earphones while I go for my stroll can make that stroll last a little longer if I’m absorbed in something which holds my attention. But I also know not to be tempted to go yomping off for miles – as the payback is just horrible.

Some days my exercise may be to take the stairs, rather than a lift. Other days exercise is simply pottering around the house.

Whatever exercise means to you, notice what you are achieving. Mentally noting down what you can do is good for you – and if that’s simply getting to the end of this blog post, well done!

What exercise are you managing that you didn’t think you could do a few months ago? Share your experience so we can all learn together.

Please note all the advice offered on this site is based on my own personal experience and the things I’ve learned. What works for me may not work for you. What works for me may not be right by you. And remember I’m NOT a specialist, I’m a ‘patient’ who’s trying to become my own specialist of what I have. There, that’s the small print out of the way!

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