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  • Writer's pictureMargreta

The Real Reason Your Autoimmune Body Hurts More With Exercise

Then, the next day you feel like you're getting sick. You start to feel those deep muscle and joint aches. You go on with your day and notice more symptoms popping up, including some tell-tale early warning autoimmune symptoms…oh great!

Autoimmune flares are never convenient. They're always a pain in the ass. But you felt so great the day you worked out? What the hell happened?

Exercise happened.

Exercise-induced flares are a real and common occurrence for people living with autoimmune diseases. Symptoms vary (of course), but in general, they include:

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Deep muscle and joint aches and pains

  • Stiffening of the muscles and joints

  • Swelling or tenderness of joints and muscles

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Your specific autoimmune disease symptoms

  • DOMS from hell (delayed onset muscle soreness)

Every autoimmune body is different in its response to exercise. Symptoms can pop up anywhere from immediately to 2-3 days later. Before getting into ways to manage exercise-induced autoimmune flares, I want to explain how they happen.

In general, autoimmune diseases cause inflammation throughout the body and make the body work harder to do simple things, like exercise. The nature of exercise is to create change in the body to enhance or improve the body's cardiovascular system, muscle strength, and mobility. Exercise releases several hormones, including adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, etc. This is especially the case when engaging in intense, vigorous, or extended (like a marathon) exercise sessions.

In a normal functioning body, releasing these hormones results in the body changes we desire: an increase in strength, cardio/stamina, and mobility. These hormone levels peak and then fall within hours to a day. Resulting in stress reduction, hormone balance, and weight loss, gain, or maintenance (depending on goals). They also result in an overall boost to the immune system. Making the body more tolerant of future exercise-stress responses.

However, in an autoimmune body, it doesn't always work that way.

Often elevated levels of chronic stress hormones (cortisol, cytokines, etc.) are already active in the body when an autoimmune disease is present. Exercise can cause these levels to exceed the range that the body can naturally reset within a few hours or a day.

In an autoimmune body, the level of intensity from exercise to cause this malfunction doesn't have to be an all-out super intense, iron man or high-intensity style workout. It could be a 50-minute hot yoga class. A 20-minute elliptical workout. A Zumba or Pilates class.

Autoimmune bodies break the rules. What would typically happen after one of these examples is the exercise-stress response in the body would spike and then reset. But, that doesn't always occur in autoimmune bodies. Instead, the autoimmune body may spike and then stay there. Causing widespread inflammation throughout the body, pushing the body into what feels like a normal autoimmune symptom flare-up.

Does this mean you shouldn't exercise if you have an autoimmune disease? No. It means that you aren't doing the RIGHT TYPE of exercise for your body.

Does that mean I can never run a marathon? Define run? Maybe? I know plenty of autoimmune bodies that run marathons, but not always with their feet.

What may limit you is your body's response to training.

Working with someone like me, who not only lives with an autoimmune condition but has more experience working with autoimmune body responses to exercise, comes in handy.

The right type of exercise for you will vary depending on where you are in your autoimmune healing journey. For many of us, even those with our conditions well controlled through lifestyle, exercise, and medications still deal with the occasional breakthrough flare.

Knowing when to push and pull back from exercise is key to naturally reducing autoimmune flares and chronic inflammation.

Living with an autoimmune body is a balancing act. Working with a professional Medical Exercise Specialist (like me!) can help you manage your body's reactions to exercise. And finally, achieve those fitness and wellness goals with less pain and frustration along the way.

Wondering if my Online Autoimmune Coaching is right for you? Let's talk! Click here and say: Autoimmune Exercise, and I'll get right back to you!


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