For educational purposes only and not intended as medical advice. Consult with your Health Care Provider before making any changes.
“Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” – Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. Director of Centers for Disease Control, 2009-2017
INSTRUCTIONS: Read through the content below and then fill out the form at the bottom.
What is Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise elevates your heart rate.Think of activities that cause you to get out of breath. Walking, running, climbing stairs, swimming, bicycling, just about everything is aerobic.
The most frequently recommended exercise is walking, which is defined as moderate level aerobics, as opposed to jogging which is defined as vigorous level. For most patients a daily walking program is most practical. Simply follow your nose and keep walking for at least 10 minutes. If you are really debilitated, try for at least 5 minutes to start with. You can increase later. If you check your pulse before and during you will find that your pulse increases. If not, then walk a little faster.
Exercise increases endorphin production.
Endorphins are similar to narcotics. Endorphins relieve pain, and fight depression and anxiety. People with chronic pain have lower levels of endorphins than people without chronic pain. Aerobic exercise increases endorphin production. It is the increased endorphin level that improves your quality of life.
Exercise that requires you to support your weight causes a greater increase in endorphins than non weight bearing exercise. Walking, running or jogging are weight bearing and cause a greater increase in endorphins, and hence a greater improvement in how you feel than non weight bearing exercises such as bicycling, swimming, etc.
But any exercise is better than no exercise, so make your best plan and get started. One study reported on wheel chair bound senior citizens who were so debilitated the only exercise program they could do was to sit there and lift their leg up off the chair repeatedly. Even that program caused significant improvements in quality of life. We have had bed bound patients that did arm and leg lifts in bed. Some patients who have not been able to get out to a mall or other suitable place for daily walking have developed walking programs in their own apartment or in the hallway. Thirty minutes walking in circles in your apartment is still aerobic and will benefit your pain.
Do I Need a Medical Clearance Before I Start an Exercise Plan
If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, family history of heart disease, or risk factors for heart disease, or any concern about starting a walking program, you may want to get clearance from your primary care provider before beginning this or any other exercise program.
However, Dr Barry Franklin (William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI) states that:
“The cardiovascular benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for a vast majority of adults, especially if they engage in light-to-moderate activity. Asymptomatic men and women should be able to get active without consulting a doctor unless they have specific medical questions.”
Because the exercise we are recommending is just walking, IE moderate level activity, most patients should be able to start without specific medical clearance.
Furthermore, Dr Per-Olof Astrand, a pioneer in the field of physiology and exercise testing states:
“A medical evaluation is more urgent for those who plan to remain inactive than for those who intend to get into good physical shape.”
So use your own best judgement and get medical clearance before starting if you feel you need it, and particularly if you are going to do vigorous level aerobics such as jogging or running.
Exercise Improves Your General Health
Exercise should be first line therapy for most medical conditions. There is no health problem that exercise won’t benefit. Exercise makes a person healthier and just as a rising tide lifts all boats, when you become healthier, everything gets better. The benefits of exercise are proven in thousands of medical studies. For example people that exercise live longer.
Exercise works just as well as drugs for heart disease and diabetes.
The British Medical Journal published a study in October of 2013 that showed that patients who exercised, and did not use drugs (such as cholesterol medications) to treat their heart disease or diabetes, lived just as long as the people who took the drugs and didn’t exercise. Of course patients can do both, but only if they understand the importance of exercise. The patients who had strokes and exercised lived much longer than the patients who didn’t exercise.
Exercise beats depression.
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed and are now one of the 3 most prescribed categories of drugs, coming in right after painkillers and cholesterol medications.
Yet large medical studies show that exercise is more effective for depression than antidepressants. Exercise works, and it should be the first treatment offered to every patient, particularly those with depression. Exercise is also very effective for anxiety, which many people with chronic pain suffer from.
Aerobic exercise prevents the mental decline associated with aging and reduces the frequency of Alzheimer’s. Exercise benefits diabetics. Diabetics have their life expectancy increased with exercise, and may cure the diabetes itself with regular daily exercise. Exercise causes weight loss which benefits diabetes, lowers cholesterol levels, and helps normalize high blood pressure.
What is the Goal
The standard national recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate level exercise per week. This works out to be 30 minutes of walking, 5 days per week. Many patients may need to work up to that level, and that is fine.You should start with what is practical for you with your fitness level.
Avoid payback. For many patients, if they start too fast or make too much of an increase too soon, they will get what we call “payback”. Payback means you are so sore the next day that you can’t do any exercise. Better to start slowly and not get any payback.
Increase slowly. Ideally when you start an exercise plan, or increase your exercise level, if you do just the right amount you will have just a little increased soreness the next day. If the increased soreness is so slight, you can’t tell for sure if you really are more sore, but you think you MIGHT be a little more sore, that is just about the perfect amount of increased exercise. Keep doing that level for a week or so, and then make another similar increase. If you have just a very little increased soreness the next day, so slight you can’t be really sure, you are doing the right amount of increase. Keep up the gradual increases until you are doing 150 minutes of moderate level aerobics per week.
If you do get payback, skip the exercise for 1-2 days until you are back to your normal level of pain. Then try increasing your exercise about half as much as the amount that caused the payback. The key to starting an exercise plan is to start low and go slow.
Many people spend a lot time on their feet at work, but it is usually too stop and go to actually be aerobic. Remember for aerobic exercise to benefit you, it needs to be in minimum increments of 10 minutes. Most people don’t spend 10 minutes walking at work. So even if you are on your feet all day at work, you probably still need to start a daily walking program to get your aerobic exercise.
If ice and snow prevents you from walking in your neighborhood, most malls allow mall walking, often before the stores are open in the morning. The important thing is to make a plan that will work for you. Some people want to use a stationary bike or swim, etc. Any exercise is an improvement, and you should do what works for you.
Exercise Reduces Pain
Exercise for most patients is at least as effective as their pain medication and for many, exercise is more effective. Less patients would end up with chronic pain if they exercised daily. Patients with chronic pain will feel better and need less medication if they use exercise as a therapy.
A recent medical study of 866 seniors followed for 14 years found that the seniors who engaged in regular aerobic exercise had a substantial reduction in musculoskeletal pain. A recent study presented at the American College of Rheumatology found that patients with arthritis who exercised had a higher quality of life, less pain and reduced health care expenses.
The lead researcher said:
“Regular physical activity improves health and reduces mortality in the general population. Furthermore, physical activity promotes arthritis specific health benefits including improving symptoms, function and psycho-social outcomes, as well as reduced disability. Despite these benefits the majority of adults in the U.S. do not attain the recommended amount of physical activity.”
After 2 years the patients who exercised had a higher quality of life, IE less pain and more functionality than those that didn’t exercise. The patients who did some exercise but didn’t meet the guidelines did better than the patients who didn’t exercise but not as good as the patients who met the guidelines.
Exercise prevents headaches.
People that have migraine or tension headaches also benefit from exercise. Aerobic exercise several times a week has been shown to reduce the frequency of headaches by about 50% and the remaining headaches are milder and don’t last as long.
Aerobic Exercise ‘Most Effective Weapon’ for Fibromyalgia
For patients with fibromyalgia, exercise is more effective than drugs, according to Dr. Hauser, who is an expert in the field.
“There is no magic drug against fibromyalgia and, in my opinion, there will never be. Aerobic exercise is the most effective weapon we have; healthy people profit from continuous physical exercise, and so do patients with fibromyalgia,” according to Dr. Hauser who presented an overview of research on fibromyalgia treatment at the European League Against Rheumatism Congress 2014.
In summary, exercise is your friend. Regular exercise will improve your life in every way we can measure.
Exercise is the key to reducing your chronic pain.
Be Prepared to Report How Much Aerobic Exercise You Do
Exercise is part of your treatment, probably the most important part. So it makes sense that we are going to keep track of your exercise just as we track other parts of your treatment program such as physical therapy attendance, surgical procedures, medication, etc. You need to keep track and report to us at each visit, how much aerobic exercise you are doing.
- We will ask you at each visit, for a report of how many minutes of aerobic exercise you are doing each week.
- We will want to know how many minutes of moderate level (walking or equivalent) and how many minutes of vigorous level (running/jogging or equivalent) exercise you have done in the last week.
- You should count any period of walking that is at least 10 minutes long, or any vigorous level exercise that was at least 5 minutes long. If you walked for 4-5 minutes you wouldn’t count that, but you should add up all periods of walking that occurred in 10 minute or longer increments.
Mall Walking – Consider your options.
If transportation is an issue, pick the mall closest to home, or one on a bus line convenient to you. If you want to incorporate stairs into your daily regimen, consider the Dimond Center. If you want to walk up and down hills, the University Center may be your best choice. If free lockers (bring your own padlock) and recognition of your accomplishments (certificates, coffee mug, canvass totes, water bottle, sweat shirt, gift certificates, etc) is important consider the Northway Mall with its Mall Walkers Club.
I do my 2 mile walk/run each morning around the neighborhood, so I have to deal with ice all winter long. I put these ice grippers on my shoes because I don’t like falling on the ice. They cost around $37 at Alaska Industrial Hardware (AIH).
They are called ICEtrekkers and are produced by YAKTRAX. They are the best I have found, and really make a difference. I have seen them at AIH and B&J.
Facilities and Programs Available to Everyone
|FIRST STEP TO ACTIVE HEALTH||This is a free, web based exercise program that has been shown to be effective at helping people improve their strength and fitness and reduce their pain. Designed for people that are 50+.||Learn More|
|THE ALASKA CLUB||The Alaska ClubMultiple locations in Anchorage. Group fitness, swimming, racquet sports, personal trainers with child care available.||Learn More|
|ANCHORAGE PARKS & RECREATION||The Parks and Recreation Department provides activities throughout the year that promote a healthy lifestyle and build community. You can browse and register for activities using the new online ActiveNet system as well as the Activity Guide.||Learn More|
|THE DOME||No enrollment fees! Individual member price: $60/month or $75/month for the entire family. Senior discounts are available. Just some membership perks include fitness area w/free weights & workout equipment, use of 400 meters running track, free Zumba & spinner Classes & discounts off programs, classes, personal training, and events! 6501 Changepoint Drive · 907-770-DOME||Learn More|
|NORTHWAY MALL "MALL WALKERS CLUB"||No pressure. Free. Go at your own pace. The Walkers Club is designed for all ages and levels of fitness. There's never any pressure to compete, so walkers are free to cover as many miles as they like. Walk with other club members or go solo filling out your mileage log card to tally your miles walked. Walking Hours: Mon-Sat anytime after 6:00 am & Sun after 8:00 am||Learn More|
|PLANET FITNESS||Multiple locations Anchorage. They advertise membership as $10 per month & a "judgment free zone".||Learn More|
|YMCA||Located at 5353 Lake Otis Pkwy. Yoga, Water Aerobics, Fencing, Physical Therapy & other programs are offered.||Learn More|
|CURVES||Workout facility with their famous support and encouragement! Located at 2217 E. Tudor Road, Ste. 15||Learn More|
|H2OASIS RIVER WALK||It's a fun way to get your exercise! Walking in the mild current of the slow river, then, relax in a whirlpool spa. Individual pool therapy sessions are available upon scheduling.||Learn More|
|DIMOND CENTER MALL WALKING||What could be easier than a FREE facility to exercise in? Grab your best walking shoes & take a stroll through this conveniently located mall. 800 E. Dimond Blvd. · Holiday Hours May Vary Walking Hours: 7:00 am-10:00||Learn More|
|BODY RENEW||Body Renew has a few locations in Alaska. They offer online enrollment, nutrition coaching, group & individual fitness programs. Children classes & childcare are also available, so the whole family can be involved!||Learn More|
|ALASKA FITNESS||Open 24/7, 365 days! Many options such as Zumba, cardio fitness, yoga, muscle fitness, kickboxing & more. Childcare is available as well. Punch cards & basis passes available without a binding agreement!||Learn More|