Walking For Fun
I have written a few articles about the benefits eating healthy and exercising have given me. I even just wrote an article about the benefits of Yoga and how it has helped me as well. Recently, though, I have started walking daily, and I wanted to share with you how much it has helped me. Exercise is important for everyone, but there are also many advantages to getting adequate exercise when having Multiple Sclerosis. In fact, exercising is actually one of the best things you can do to improve muscle function and manage MS symptoms. As MS is different for everyone, it’s important to find and determine the exercises that are most beneficial for you and where you’re at. While I have never enjoyed cardio much, I have found that walking helps me immensely.
A daily habit
Almost every morning the past few months (depending on the heat), I get out with my 2 year old and our neighbors and we walk. Sometimes it’s only a mile, while other times we’ve exceeded our expectations and made it 4 or 5 miles. Going on our daily walks has greatly increased my mood and energy. I also have noticed since starting walking that I don’t have as much pain in my joints, which is huge for me! My muscles feel less tight and I can move and go about my day with greater ease. Another thing I love about walking is that it gets my heart rate up. I recently read in an article that, “Aerobic exercise is the best neuroprotective agent that we have-it’s a wonder drug.” And, I have to say, I couldn’t agree more! Since I began consistently working out after I had my son in 2015, I have felt my best when it comes to MS. Yes, I still have my issues, but overall my mood is more stable, my fatigue has improved and I feel 100% better than I ever did before I started.
A positive effect on the mind and spirit
Exercises that get your heart rate up, such as walking and jogging release endorphins-your body’s natural feel release of feel good hormones. Endorphins are secreted within the brain and nervous system and they have a number of physiological effects. They release and cause an analgesic or numbing effect. They help diminish pain and kind of work as a sedative all at the same time. These little babies trigger a positive feeling in the body and give you a feeling of euphoria. A lot of people refer to this as the “runner’s high”, but after walking and even doing some light jogging I have felt this. It’s amazing how simply walking daily can give you a more positive and energizing outlook on things. To be truthful, I originally began working out to lose baby weight. I wanted to tone up and all of that good stuff. But, now, I continue working out for my mind and spirit. I do still take an antidepressant, but my attitude and emotional health is at an all time high. I have never felt more stable an happy emotionally! I'm telling you, those endorphins have done wonders for me. The fit and healthy body that comes with it is just a major bonus compared to the mental and emotional benefits, in my opinion. Even if our body sometimes seems to “betray” us with this disease, when you do good things for it, you definitely feel it.
I used to be the person who thought I would never in my life workout. I hated everything about it. I didn’t like getting sweaty and I didn’t like the pain that working out once caused. I knew I had MS, and the last thing on my to-do list was working out. I didn’t have the time, motivation, and certainly not the energy for that junk. However, I have learned when you fuel your body with good things (think lots of fruits, veggies, etc. ALL the good stuff) then exercising is completely different. Don’t get me wrong, I still indulge in cheeseburgers, fries and ice cream to name a few, but when I do working out isn’t near as easy. I also want to add that I take a great multi-vitamin and pro-biotic daily, which help improve my energy level. I used to use my MS as an excuse not to work out, honestly. But, now I use my MS as my REASON for working out! It is important for me to point out to you though, that if every inch of my body is saying no to working out, then I don’t push myself. Working out is a lot about balance.
Tips for exercising with MS
I know that exercising and walking isn’t an option for everyone with MS, but please know that if you are wanting to start working out, that there are so many MS friendly exercises for you to try! Water aerobics, bicycling (they even have hand bikes if you are unable to use your lower body), Pilates and Yoga as I mentioned earlier are just a few of the many options. There are far more low impact exercises out there than we realize! If the thought of getting active and going for things such as walks or doing things such as light weights do interest you than I do have a bit of advice:
- If It’s Not a Good Day For You: know that it’s OK to have a rest day: There are many days where I wake up and don’t feel well. On those days, I know that my body needs rest and it’s important for us to listen to our bodies! Even the most amazing athletes need their rest days! So, on those days, relax and know tomorrow is a new day!
- We Can’t Always Beat The Heat: With any exercise, whether it be strength training with light weights, light aerobics or my walking especially, I have to determine whether or not it’s a good day to do so. For instance, if it is just way too hot outside, I know that walking that day isn’t going to happen. Heat is one of my biggest triggers, and I know when to step back and say, not today. For my walks, it’s also important for me to drink an adequate amount of water. Staying hydrated, especially with MS is so important! I also got a small fan I can take with me, so that if it starts to heat up while I’m out I can get some relief. These North Texas summers can be brutal so I’m also highly considering getting a cooling vest. I love walking too much to let the heat stop me!
- If You Need Assistance That's OK Too: Don’t be ashamed if you can’t walk a long distance without help or support. If you need to bring a wheelchair or another device to help then I highly recommend that! For all you young mommas like me, I highly recommend getting a good jogging stroller. My husband recently got me one for Mother’s Day, and it was an amazing investment! Before it was hard on me to push our 30 lb toddler around. It hurt me because the stroller was heavy and hard to maneuver. However, with the jogging stroller, it’s light and pushes with ease, which is exactly what I needed!
- Don’t Be Afraid to Stop and Rest: I may be able to walk 4 to 5 miles on a good day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to stop and rest. I like to walk a couple of miles and then sit and rest for a good 30 minutes to let my body recuperate and let my little guy have some time out of the stroller too. If I’m doing particularly long walks I also find it is important to refuel with a good source of protein such as a protein bar. It helps boost my energy and keep me going.
- Find a Good Support System: I seriously have the best walking buddies I could have ever asked for. My sweet friend that I walk with never pushes me to do more than I am comfortable with, and she understands when I need to stop and take a break. I love having someone to encourage me to work out, but also encourage me to take care of myself. I also think a walking partner is important, especially if you’re walking around town like we do, because if heaven forbid something bad happens they are there to help.
Great way to combat MS symptoms
These are just a few of the tips I have for you when it comes to working out, but especially walking. Walking and incorporating exercise weekly has been such a breath of fresh air in my life, and I think it’s a great way to combat MS symptoms as well as those pesky emotions that don’t always want to behave. I also want to explain that I do not in any way sell or promote any kind of health and fitness products, I have just thoroughly enjoyed becoming mindful of my health and fitness, and hope it can help someone else feel the same! If you found this article to be of interest to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me or ask me any questions! I'm by no means an expert, but I’m more than happy to help! :)
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