Easy ways to include exercise in your daily routine

Mary MacNeil, RN, BScN CDE

“Get off the couch and get some exercise!” It’s what every child hears from their mother and likely hears from loved ones throughout adulthood. We often find it difficult to find the motivation to get regular exercise, and more so if you live with a chronic disease such as acromegaly. However, getting regular exercise shouldn’t be a difficult task. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of exercise and talk about how you can get started and maintain a regular exercise routine.

Health benefits of exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, whether or not you have a chronic disease. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, mobility, muscle strength, strong bones, and improves your overall immune system and physical well-being. When it comes to the benefits of exercise as it relates to acromegaly, it can often help reduce symptoms associated with complications like osteoarthritis, diabetes, and cardiomyopathy. In fact, when it comes to diabetes, regular exercise is often an important part of treatment since it helps improve glucose readings and may lengthen the time a patient can go without requiring medication for diabetes. One should understand that exercise in itself doesn’t help prevent these complications as they are generally already present upon diagnosis of acromegaly. However, exercise does help make it easier to live with complications associated with acromegaly.

Getting started with an exercise routine

If you or someone you know has acromegaly and is looking to get started with a regular exercise routine, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional (HCP) team prior to getting started. Your HCP team can help set up guidelines that you should follow when exercising. In addition to talking to your HCP team, it is important to recognize what activities are within your abilities. Listen to your body as it is the best indicator of what you can maintain. It’s not uncommon to feel slightly sore the next day after an intense workout; however, if you find yourself bedridden with pain for several days following exercise, it’s an obvious sign that you should change the intensity of your routine.

When starting off with an exercise routine, it is important to consider the lifestyle you currently live. Do you have a sedentary lifestyle where you spend most of your day sitting in front of a computer screen, or do you live an active lifestyle where you work on your feet all day? If you are sedentary, performing household chores (e.g., washing dishes, vacuuming, etc.) on a regular basis is a simple way to start being more active. If you work on your feet all day, you might be able to start with a more intense exercise routine such as jogging. Start small and work your way up to more intense activities if your body can handle it. Low impact types of exercises such as walking, stretching, swimming and biking are recommended. These types of exercises are called aerobic exercise and they help improve and maintain your cardiovascular system. In addition to aerobic exercise, resistance training, activities that strengthen and build muscle such as weightlifting, is recommended. It is very important to maintain a balanced set of aerobic exercise and resistance training.

You should find an exercise routine that you will enjoy and fits your strengths as this helps motivate you to maintain the activity. As previously mentioned, the exercise routine you select should provide resistance training, aerobic exertion, and get your heart rate up. Besides selecting the actual exercise, you need to also consider factors such as accessibility and financial requirements. For example, if you join a gym, can you get there regularly and will you be able to afford the membership fees on a monthly basis? Often, specific symptoms related to acromegaly can affect the type of activities one can participate in. For instance, if you are unable to run or walk long distances because you experience joint pain and swelling in your knees, perhaps you should try simple range-of-motion exercises like raising your arms above your head and doing forward and backward shoulder rolls, or even consider swimming. The key to selecting a regular exercise routine is to find something that you will enjoy, do regularly, and is within your abilities.

In some cases, you or someone you know may have lived a very active lifestyle prior to being diagnosed with acromegaly and would like to know if it’s necessary to scale back exercise. Acromegaly could potentially decrease the intensity at which you are able to perform your activities; however, it’s not impossible to maintain a relatively high level of activity. Be sure to discuss your options with your HCP team as this decision will vary from person to person. Do what you can to stay active, listen to your mind and body, and you might be able to reach activity levels that you were accustomed to prior to being diagnosed with acromegaly. In addition, the type of treatment you may be receiving for acromegaly could influence your exercise routine. For those who have had surgery, when you can start exercising again will depend on your post-surgery healing process; however, going forward, you should be okay to continue with regular exercise. Medical treatment doesn’t generally affect one’s exercise routine negatively; in fact, it could potentially help increase your capacity for exercise by reducing the symptoms of acromegaly that likely prevent you from being active.

Maintaining an exercise routine

The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) have developed a set of physical activity guidelines to help Canadians move toward healthier lifestyles. You can check out these guidelines here. Although patients with acromegaly may not be able to closely follow these recommended guidelines as they were developed with the average healthy Canadian in mind, it is still something that a patient with acromegaly can work towards. CSEP physical activity guidelines suggest the average healthy adult should get 150 minutes of moderate to intensive aerobic exercise per week, with intervals of muscle and bone strengthening activities at least 2 days per week.1 As mentioned earlier, you need to determine where you are starting from and what you are willing to do.

Often the most difficult part of exercise is finding the motivation to adhere to and maintain a regular routine. You can hear all the advice in the world from friends, family, and your HCP team, but you have to want to do it in order to be successful. A good way to maintain an exercise routine is to create achievable goals. Try using the S.M.A.R.T. method when creating your set of exercise goals (the numbers given are for reference only):

Specific goals:

Ask yourself what am I going to do? I’m going to walk 2 km.

Measurable goals:

How often are you going to exercise? I’m going to walk 2 km in 45 minutes, 2 times a week.

Achievable goals:

Are you able to actually do it? Yes, I have walked this distance before.

Realistic goals:

Can you commit to these exercise goals? Yes, I’ve committed the time right after work for my exercise routine.

Time-based goals:

How long will it take you to achieve your goals? I will achieve my walking goals in 6 months.

When you set up these goals, it is easy to tell if you are successful. Get out a calendar to mark your progress as it gives you a visual aid for success. Perhaps you need others to motivate you to do exercise. Joining an exercise group can help with motivation and adds a social component which is appealing for some individuals. Finally, getting feedback from an HCP or a personal trainer on your progress can also promote exercise adherence. People are generally more motivated to maintain exercise if the feedback is delivered by an HCP or a personal trainer. Just remember, when it comes to setting your exercise goals, don’t set the bar too high and work your way up to bigger goals.

As mentioned earlier, always talk to your HCP team prior to starting an exercise routine. Physiotherapists are a good source of information; they may not have specific knowledge about acromegaly, but they have experience working with individuals who live with chronic disease. Approach your endocrinologist and family doctor for medical advice as these HCPs communicate with each other and bring their unique set of expertise to the medical decision process. Always look at the positive side when dealing with a chronic condition such as acromegaly. Most individuals affected by acromegaly generally feel overwhelmed and need reassurance that they will be okay. Exercise can help overcome the negative physical and emotional aspects of living with acromegaly. Just remember to start small and participate in activities that are within your capabilities and you will be well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle.


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