I love exercise. Not all of it–you can keep most team sports–but the types of fitness I’ve indulged in over the years ranges from running and dancing to free-weight training and (my favourite) swimming.
It is a myth that the overweight dislike exercise. Many times you won’t see us at gyms or popular jogging paths, because we don’t always like to be seen while doing it. But, like cockroaches, we do our things where there aren’t audiences to interfere.
When I first became ill, one of the immediate drawbacks was a limitation in the types and intensity of exercise I could do. Gone are the days of running stairs and long aerobic dance sessions. In their place are gentle Pilates stretches and slower-paced walks. These all have to be timed right, of course. Not too early in the day, not too intense and not to late in the day, either. And of course there are days where it has to be shelved. Mild exercise, though, has always been a tool in my Illness Management Arsenal. Just like heating pads, medications and self-hypnosis.
But barely a day goes by without a chipper email from Quality Health or my insurance provider or some other dogoodnik that chirps happily about how “studies have shown that exercise can improve your [fill in the blank] pain!” The articles then go on to tell you how much better you’ll feel (studies HAVE shown) if you jog, do aerobics, etc.
Every study they quote (that I’ve been able to double-check) is one done with mostly-healthy people who have mild aches and pains. There are no studies with chronic patients who have a consistently high pain level and also do the consistently vigorous exercise the articles recommend. Because while a healthy person with a sore finger or three, a bum knee or a bad shoulder can jack up the endorphins, it isn’t as likely that your average patient with widespread pain can do the same thing.
But that doesn’t seem to matter. So we are given yet another verse in the song that says “your illness is your fault.” I’m sure that’s not how the freelancers who slap these little missives mean it. Or, sadly, perhaps it is. But the message that comes across when these articles are received is that these life-changing ailments are really just something that we could get over if we’d only put our minds to it and toss in some good old-fashioned elbow grease.
Because, heaven knows, none of us really want our old lives back.