Stop 'Exercising' - Get Moving

Exercise has become a 'dirty word' for many people, not just people with orthostatic intolerance. But, for people with POTS or NMH (or CFS or Fibromyalgia etc.), it’s easy to get angry and lose your cool when you hear the word or think about it.

It’s easy for someone to say that’s what you need to do, that all of us need to do.
      —  The problem is not that you don’t know that you need to do something physical – 'exercise'.
      —  The problem is not that you don’t want to do it or that your are not willing to do something.

You have tried to 'exercise'. You might have tried it and it might have helped a little – but you still get short of breath when you walk a flight of stairs or you get a headache, shoulder ache, arms ache, short of breath when you try to walk for very long. Or if you do a little more walking, you have to go lay down for hours to recover. So you quit, disgusted and frustrated. You might even be more convinced that it’s your fault somehow or that you are making yourself sick by not “exercising”.


Let's look at it from another angle

Before we talk about "what" to do, let's talk about the reaction to "exercise" and your past experience. As with many things with POTS, NMH and OI, you need to take the lead, educate yourself and reframe how you are looking at things. People with OI will take the lead to help educate healthcare professionals about the issues and what you need to do.

  1. Let’s call it 'activity', 'movement for health', 'movement for life'   
  2. Our bodies are designed to move.  They do best when we are physically active, moving around and doing things.  When we are kids, we do that all the time when we play tag, swing, climb monkey bars, go on the merry-go-round, play kickball, soccer, baseball, hide-and-go seek.  You get the idea. 

  3. Let's think of it as movement  that will help you heal. 
  4. We need to talk about what kinds of activity or movement will help you heal.  Many of the exercise ideas that you will find on the internet, read in a pamphlet or be told by a health professional involve using equipment in a gym.  For many people with POTS or CFS, going to a gym is not a real possibility right now. We need to find activity that matches what you can do, where you are, with the resources you have.

This section is up next to be expanded with more specific recommendations for where and how to get started with activities in lying down or sitting. Sign up for notification by email or to follow us.


Author: Kay E. Jewell, MD
Page Last Updated: August 25, 2012