A low-impact exercise routine for lupus
You can build a stronger body and have more energy—no gear required! If pain or fatigue—or both—have you struggling just to get through the day, working out is likely the last thing on your mind. But exercise—especially gentle strength training—can improve some lupus symptoms.
“Strengthening your muscles helps prevent joint weakening and damage,” says Diane Kamen, MD, a rheumatologist in Charleston, South Carolina, and an associate professor at Medical University of South Carolina.
Did you know? Strength training helps counter fatigue and lupus-induced lack of energy.
A 2015 study of 146 women with lupus found that women with more lower-body muscle strength tended to be better at common activities such as lifting, bending, and climbing stairs. Plus, exercise can give you a mental boost: “Lupus-induced lack of energy is often mental and physical,” says Dr. Kamen. “Strength training helps counter that fatigue.”
Try this low-impact exercise routine
To build strength, you don’t have to pump iron. Low-impact exercises are effective and are less stressful on the body. “This type of exercise has a low injury risk, making it safe for people who have balance problems and numbness of the hands or feet,” says Dr. Kamen. Once you get the green light from your doctor, try the routine below, designed by Kim Truman, a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified trainer in Dallas who has trained people with lupus.
The exercises are designed to boost both lower and upper body strength. This workout will also improve mobility and lessen joint pain. If any exercise is too challenging, simply follow the “take it easy” variation.
Fit in five
Twice a week, do 8 to 12 repetitions (reps) of each exercise in order. Then repeat the entire series once or twice more. It’s OK to rest for a few minutes between each set of reps.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms extended at shoulder height in front of you. Bend knees as you sit back [shown]. Rise up to the starting position and repeat.
TAKE IT EASY: Start the move standing in front of a chair; sit down instead of squatting.
Stand with feet together and hands on hips. Take a big step forward with the right foot and bend your knees [shown]. Rise up as you step back to the starting position. Repeat, stepping forward with the left foot, then return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
TAKE IT EASY: Grasp a table or the top of a chair for support.
Take a big step back from a countertop and grasp the edges with hands shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, bringing chest toward the counter [shown]. Push up, extending arms to the starting position, and repeat.
TAKE IT EASY: Do the move with your hands pressed against a wall.
Lie on your back on the floor or a yoga mat. Bend knees and place feet on the floor; extend arms straight down on the floor beside you. Slowly bring knees toward your chest, lifting hips slightly [shown], then lower legs to the starting position and repeat.
TAKE IT EASY: Raise one knee at a time, alternating legs.
Lie on your back on the floor or a yoga mat. Bend knees and place feet on the floor; extend arms straight down on the floor beside you. Lift hips until your body forms a line from knees to chest [shown]; hold hips up for 5 seconds, then lower to the starting position and repeat.
TAKE IT EASY: Don’t lift your hips as high and eliminate the hold.