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Exercise: Being Active While Living with a Chronic Condition

Staying active and fit is essential, especially for those with a chronic condition such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, epilepsy or heart disease. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine not only strengthens your body and allows you to maintain an active lifestyle -- it also strengthens your mind.

Laura Spadaro is 48 years old, and has been living with type 2 diabetes since she was twelve. Laura says, “Exercise is essential as a diabetic. It keeps my heart healthy, my blood sugars leveled, and my weight in check. But most importantly, it keeps me mentally strong so I can effectively manage my insulin therapy.”

Maintaining a healthy mind is as important as gaining physical strength when living with a chronic condition. Harvard Health reports that exercise that elevates your heart rate will increase blood flow to your brain. In turn, that boosts your memory and thinking skills, reduces insulin resistance, and tames inflammation.

“Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. McGinnis, instructor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. So you actually can expand your brain through exercise!

Starting an exercise program may sound daunting, especially for those living with the challenges of a chronic condition. So, if you have never exercised before, where do you begin?

Start with these five easy steps:

1) Safety first. Safety is important, so consult your physician before you begin any exercise regime. Work around any physical challenges associated with your condition and choose an activity that will empower you to sustain a daily exercise program.

2) Enjoy yourself. Select an exercise that will keep you motivated and that you enjoy. Walking is low-impact and free! Explore local gyms or classes; they often offer introductory rates or free trials. Tai Chi, Yoga, and Spin classes all increase the blood flow to the brain and are fun!

3) Slow and steady: Don’t overwhelm yourself with committing to exercise every day. Commit to two days a week for 10 minutes. After you feel comfortable and the physical activity gets easier, increase the amount of time and days you exercise.

4) Get a medical ID. A MedicAlert ID such as a bracelet, necklace, or shoe tag will give you peace of mind when you start an exercise regime. As a diabetic, Laura wears her MedicAlert ID every day -- but especially when she runs. If she sustains an injury while running, a Good Samaritan or first responder can access her MedicAlert ID and contact our 24/7emergency response team, who will quickly communicate critical health information to ensure she gets prompt and effective care. 

5) Support is important. Getting started is hard but finding a friend who can join you will make it easier! An accountability buddy will be supportive for both of you. Also, surround yourself with loved ones and friends that encourage and support your healthy living goals.

Exercise has many benefits, beyond just strength and endurance. It will strengthen your core to help with balance and increase your body’s ability to absorb the impact of a fall. But most importantly, it will keep you mentally strong and help alleviate the stresses of living with a chronic condition.

We’ve got you covered

What is MedicAlert? It’s not just a medical ID. MedicAlert is peace of mind. Starting an exercise program while living with a chronic condition is not easy. Know that in case of a medical emergency, MedicAlert Foundation has your back. With a MedicAlert ID and membership, your medical history and emergency information is stored, safe and secure, in your MedicAlert profile.

How does it work? Emergency response personnel are trained to look for a MedicAlert ID. In an emergency, accessing the MedicAlert ID number on your bracelet, necklace or tag will connect first responders to MedicAlert’s 24/7 MedicAlert Emergency Response Team. They will relay your complete medical history and list of emergency contacts, providing first responders with a detailed health record and action plan.