Do you feel sick or “sicker” after exercise?

Do you feel like even a little bit of exercise knocks you down? Do you notice a flare up or increase in your health ailments after gentle exercise? This commonly happens with chronic fatigue, stealth infections, and autoimmune conditions. It is not “Just in your head.” This is known as post – exertional malaise. It is also starting to be called systemic exercise intolerance disease.

Post – exertional malaise

You may experience an extreme increase in your symptoms, debilitating fatigue, or an increase in sore muscles that does not correlate to the intensity of your work out. There is more research being done on this topic, but it is still not well understood and most of the time you are left without a plan of action!

One of the biggest problems with post – exertional malaise is that it causes a decrease in exercise. Now, hang with me here. This decrease in exercise is completely normal, it is you listening to your body, recognizing that something is not right, and trying to allow your body to heal. The problem is that sedentary lifestyle makes chronic fatigue worse. It also leaves your body unable to fight infections optimally. Less blood flowing for long periods of time means that your heart is not staying in shape, you are not getting as much oxygen to tissues in your body, and immune cells are not getting pumped around as well either! Exercise is important for all these things and more. So, how can you exercise without feeling awful the next day?

What to do about it

We have to start where you are at and begin adding in movement. Your exercise now looks different. Your exercise needs to be targeted in such a way that it builds your health and does not tear it down. Let’s talk about ways this can be done.

Isometric contractions. This form of exercise is a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. Isometrics are done in static positions. A study showed that during sustained isometric muscle contraction there was increased blood flow and circulation. This is a way to build your muscles that is less taxing, while still increasing circulation and pumping blood back to your heart.

Benefits of isometric contractions

One study showed that isometric contractions in yoga helped improve chronic fatigue. Improvements in fatigue and pain of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, who were resistant to conventional therapy, showed better outcomes. This is huge because not only was there improvement in fatigue, but pain as well – think fibromyalgia here.

Building muscle and strength training has also been shown to have a positive impact on your immune system and help reduce inflammation. Studies have shown reduction in IL-4, IL-10, CRP, and IFN-γ, all of which contribute to inflammation.

Another benefit of strength straining is supporting your mitochondria. Many times chronic illnesses disrupt the way our mitochondria work and we are unable to create ATP like we once did. This causes even more fatigue. Strength and resistance training help prevent this from happening in muscles.

Exercise may look different for you now, but starting out with exercise that is doable for you and in the form that your body needs it is vital to preventing further chronic illness, protecting your heart, optimizing your immune function, keeping mitochondria healthy, and getting your energy back. Adding the right form of exercise back in stops the snowball effect and implications on your health that a sedentary lifestyle can have. Start where you are. Do what you can.