Exercising With Physical Limitations

Exercise has never been easy for me. When I was young, I never understood why I couldn’t run and play as much as my friends. As I got older, I found out that this condition runs in the family. My mom and brothers also can’t sustain vigorous physical exertion.  Some of my uncles and aunts on my mom’s side have that issue as well. Eventually, my brother found out that we have a mild form of mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder. Luckily, it’s pretty mild for us and we could function normally for the most part. That’s life and we all have to play the hand we’re dealt. I still need to exercise even when I have some physical limitations. We can’t avoid exercise because things will only get worse as we age.

Exercising with Physical Limitations

Physical Limitations

Mitochondrial disease affects everyone differently. My younger brother has a much more difficulties with physical exertion than me. (He’s the one that got diagnosed.) Luckily, the only symptom we have is exercise intolerance. From researching online, other people has much worse symptoms that this. At least I can live a normal life for the most part. Anyway, here are my physical limitations.

  • Running – I can run about 100 meter. I can’t run much longer than that. My muscle just stop working and I can’t catch my breath. Even 100 meter would cause me to blackout if I go as fast as I can.
  • Slow jog – I haven’t done this in a long time, but I can probably jog about a lap. More would cause me to black out.
  • Walking and hiking – I can walk normally, but steep hikes are tough for me. I’d have to take frequent rest and pace myself.
  • Weights – I don’t have any problem lifting weights. I think that’s because it’s not sustained exertion. I’d do a set and then rest a bit, then continue on. I haven’t tried circuit training, but I’m pretty sure I can’t do it.
  • Sports – I can’t play a competitive basketball game because it requires a lot of running. I could shoot hoops and play casually if I minimize running.

In summary, I can’t sustain physical exertion for long. How do I exercise with this limitation?

DIY exercise program

First of all, if you have any physical limitation, then you should talk with your doctor before embarking on an exercise program. My doctor encourages me to exercise and I design my own program. I know my body best and I know what it can and can’t do.

  1. Weights – Luckily, I could workout with weights so that’s a big piece of the equation. For 2017, I’m focusing on improving the numbers of pull ups I can do. I’ll do a few exercises per major body part per day. That’s pulling, pushing, legs, and core.
  2. Cardio – I could walk so that’s part of my routine. Instead of driving to the gym, I walk there instead. I could also do light cardio after I workout with weights. The elliptical machines at the gym is the best fit for me. When I was younger, I could do about 30 minutes on those machines. Now that I’m older, I can only sustain about 15 minutes. I’ll need to work back up to 30 minutes. Also, I need to monitor my heart rate carefully. The heart rate needs to be below 140 beats per minute or else I wont’ be able to sustain the exertion. My heart rate shoots up very quickly so I need to slow down even more if it gets too high.

You can see my current workout routine here.

You need to exercise

The point I’m trying to make is that we all need to exercise even when we have physical limitations. Regular exercise will improve your health. That’s why you need to design a workout program that work for you. Some of us might need to work with our doctor or a specialist to come up with the right program, but don’t put it off. It’s very important to keep active because that’s the only proven way to keep healthy as we age.

Low impact exercise like Yoga and Tai Chi are a great alternative if you can’t exercise rigorously. There are also many senior programs at your local gyms. The 24 hours Fitness I go to has all these classes and more.

Do you have physical limitations? How do you keep active with these limitations?

Image credit: Plabo BM at flickr

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