Hitting the Gym with an Autoimmune Disease

Updated: Apr 9, 2018



When you have an Autoimmune Disease, exercise isn’t usually at the top of your priority list. Most of us with Autoimmune Diseases (even those in remission) are chronically tired. It’s not easy to get yourself to the grocery store, never mind working out. 


However, we all know that exercise generally yields positive results both physically and mentally. So how do we try to incorporate exercise into our lives? I would like to offer some advice to help my fellow Autoimmune friends hit the gym!


Figure out what works for you


You need to think about a few factors here. First of all, what limitations does your disease cause you to have? For instance, I automatically rule out running because of my total body arthritis. Running would be counterproductive because it would ultimately end up hurting my joints more than it would help my body. Make sure you are clear on what you can and can’t do. Secondly, it’s beneficial to pick an exercise you enjoy doing. I LOVE Zumba and look forward to going to my classes. It keeps me entertained and engaged and makes me feel less like I’m working out. There are plenty of workouts out there – from Yoga to running and the elliptical to weights – there is definitely something for everyone.


Start Slow


Don’t jump into working out every single day of the week after a long period of time where you have not been exercising. Start off by doing something low impact once or twice a week to see how you feel to avoid over exerting or injuring yourself. I think a great way to start is walking. When it’s nice weather get outside and enjoy it!


Know your limits


We all often have a long list of things to do each day. Don’t feel pressure to do hardcore work outs all of the time. Find a schedule that doesn’t overwork you and cause you additional exhaustion. You may want to work out 7 days a week, but it might only be realistic for you to work out 3 days a week – and that’s ok! Any exercise is definitely 100% better than no exercise at all.


Don’t compare yourself to your “healthy” friends


Let’s face it, if you have an Autoimmune Disease, your body is dealing with a lot more than the average person. It is often unrealistic for you to work out on the same level and at the same frequency as friends who don’t have an Autoimmune Disease. While it is possible, don’t put yourself down for feeling like you don’t work out as much as you should especially when you are in a flare.


Get motivated


All of us (even those without autoimmune diseases) often need some motivation to get to the gym. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  • Make a killer workout playlist to get pumped up.

  • Pick a new TV show to watch and only allow yourself to watch that show when you exercise.

  • Go with a friend.

  • Reward yourself with something special for every “x” number of workouts you complete.

I hope these guidelines and tips help! Don’t get frustrated when you try to get started because it definitely takes some trial and error to figure what’s the best fit is for you. Be sure to consult your doctor before jumping into a new workout regiment. They might have some good advice on exercise they have seen work well for other patients.


Good luck and have fun!

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