Staying Active with a Chronic Disease

Are you of the 30% of Albertans who have been diagnosed with a chronic disease? A chronic disease is defined as any illness that is persistent and generally slow in progression, which can be treated but typically not cured. Cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, depression, coronary heart disease and epilepsy are some chronic diseases commonly diagnosed. While 30% of Albertans live with at least one chronic disease, Statistics Canada reports that this number jumps to 75% for individuals over the age of 65.

There are both modifiable traits and non-modifiable traits that are linked to causing chronic diseases. Some non-modifiable traits (aspects of your life you cannot control) include your race, sex, genetics and age. However, there are many important modifiable traits that we can change to reduce the risk and slow progression of chronic disease; these include smoking, lack of physical activity, poor eating habits (consuming foods with high amounts of processed sugars and high cholesterol), as well as high stress levels.

As Alberta’s population ages and the prevalence of chronic diseases continues to increase, government and health-care organizations are focusing on helping people manage their chronic disease. To achieve this, there is a shift away from the traditional, medically driven, approach to treatment, while moving towards helping people self-manage their disease. Whether you are looking to reduce your chances of developing a chronic disease or improve your quality of life due to a previous diagnosis, research demonstrates that increasing physical activity will help manage and prevent chronic diseases and may reverse the symptoms of some.


How Physical Activity Can Help

Aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, jogging and classes such as Zumba, improve the health of your heart, improves your endurance and aids in weight loss. While weight loss is generally viewed as a goal of vanity, reducing your overall weight reduced the amount of stress on your joints. For those individual suffering with arthritis, a reduction in weight will make a big difference on daily pains and quality of life.

Strength exercises help increase muscle strength and endurance. This will make it easier to complete functional daily activities, such as household chores, carrying children around and even lifting luggage when on vacation. Increased muscle strength also helps to support and stabilize compromised joints and inadvertently reducing your risk for falls.

Flexibility exercises help to improve the range of your joints, maintaining a healthy, strong and flexible muscle. Without stretching, muscles become shortened, tight and prone to injuries.

Below are some common chronic diseases and a demonstration of how exercise can improve the quality of life of those suffering.

· Heart disease. Regular aerobic exercise helps strengthens the muscles of the heart and reduces the amount of work the heart is required to do. Exercise also lowers overall blood pressure, aids in weight control, which further limits stress on the heart.

· Diabetes. Regular aerobic and strength exercise can improve your body’s natural glycogen process and effectively lower your blood sugar level.

· Asthma. Often, aerobic exercise can help control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks by improving lung function and building overall stamina. Flexibility exercise, such as yoga, can help asthmatics focus on their breathing and improve lung capacity.

· Arthritis. Aerobic and strength exercise can reduce pain, help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness. It can also improve physical function and quality of life for people who have arthritis. Further, it will aid in weight loss, which will reduce overall stress on joints.

· Cancer. Regular aerobic exercise can help lower the risk of breast, bowel and prostate cancer. Further it helps improve blood flow, lessens nausea, lessens fatigue, controls weight, improves balance, lowers the risk of heart complications and improves quality of life.

· Dementia. Exercise can improve cognition in people with dementia, and people who are active on a regular basis are at less risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.


Where to Begin

For individuals with a chronic disease, not knowing where to begin, fear of aggravating symptoms, lack of confidence and lack of motivation are commonly the biggest obstacles to overcome when considering physical exercise. If you have a chronic disease or would like to make a positive change in your life to help prevent a potential future illness, here are some suggestions on ways to get active!

1. Talk to a professional

To be safe and confident in what you are doing, work with a health professional that understands your condition and exercise safety. Physiotherapists and kinesiologists are specifically qualified to design an exercise program tailored to your particular circumstance.

2. Make it routine

Decide when, where, what and for how long you will exercise. Having a structured plan will help to support you staying active and reduce the chances of putting off plans to exercise. Begin with small goals that are challenging but also realistic and achievable.

3. Get Support

Share your goals with friends and family who will assist you on staying on track. Find someone to workout with or someone who has similar goals. This tends to help keep you accountable to the shared goals. This is why group exercise training is very effective.


How Leduc Physio Can Help You

Our physiotherapists can help you understand your diagnosis and how it affects your life, what immediate steps you can take to manage the disease and give you recommendations to assist you to develop lifelong strategies to live the life you want. They will always provide you with a home exercise program to ensure that you are an active member in your health improvements. Something helpful to remember is that: Physiotherapy is something that you do, not something you get.

A physiotherapist can be a source of motivation, guidance and problem solving during the ups and downs of managing your journey through life with a chronic disease.

Our kinesiologists can guide you through private, semi-private, and group exercise therapy sessions. They also custom fit compression socks, braces, and orthotics.

Check out our website for more information, or book your appointment online at

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