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  • Writer's pictureMargreta

Is working out making your autoimmune disease symptoms worse?

Updated: May 20, 2022

The number one reason I am so passionate about working with people living with autoimmune diseases is that they are tired of working with trainers and coaches who hurt them.

For someone living with an autoimmune disorder or a chronic health condition like low back pain, it can be the most frustrating experience...

Pick the wrong exercise program or coach, and POOF…

  • An exercise-induced autoimmune flare leads to increased symptoms, like joint pain, swelling, fatigue, insomnia, and feeling more crappy.

  • An old injury flares up and starts hurting and limiting your lifestyle.

  • You throw the back out again.

  • Overworked muscles that hurt for days, so much so you can't get up and down the stairs.

Exercise-induced autoimmune flares are not uncommon. And this isn't a free pass to never workout again either!

It's a sign that your exercise routine or program isn't working for you. It's triggering an immune response.

Exercise is an essential part of living a healthy and sustainable life. But what's most important is finding the right TYPE of exercise that doesn't cause flares or other bouts of illness.

You might be wondering how exercise, which is supposed to be so amazing for us, could actually be making you feel worse.

One word: Stress.

Exercise causes stress. While you're working out, you feel the physical stress on your body: muscles get tired and sore, you're breathing faster, sweating, and you may feel your heart pounding away, pumping blood through the body.

All of that physical response to exercise triggers many hormonal reactions, including releasing the body's favorite stress hormone: cortisol.

Cortisol isn't bad for us, but too much, and our bodies struggle to clear it from our systems. Long-term, higher cortisol levels can lead to more widespread inflammation, changes in mood, weight gain, and pain.

If you have an autoimmune or other chronic health condition, your cortisol levels are often higher, to begin with. Then you head to the gym for exercise. And the next day, you may feel great, so you hit the gym again, and then WHAM, you wake up the following day feeling like crap. Feeling like you are getting sick, joint or muscle pain through the roof, and other symptoms. That's an exercise-induced flare.

It's important to note there is also a condition called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is different from exercise-induced flares. DOMS is simply sore muscles, a reminder that you are working out and should take a rest day. It's your body's way of telling you: take a day off. Don't ignore this totally normal reaction. You've earned it.

Exercise-induced flares are worse. You may feel the beginnings of a flu-like virus hitting your body. Your specific autoimmune symptoms might start showing up or getting worse. Headaches, nausea, fatigue, and swelling are commonly associated with an exercise-induced flare.

It's about balance, and exercise is only part of the equation.

Have you experienced an exercise-induced autoimmune flare?

Send me a message, and let's talk about what you can do to prevent them from happening again.


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