Thursday, February 28, 2013

Interstitial Cystitis: Staying Active

I know it is tempting, but don't stop living just because you have a chronic illness like interstitial cystitis. It is important to take care of the rest of your body even though part of it is misbehaving. Getting enough exercise is important for weight management, a healthy immune system, can stabilize moods, contributes to deeper sleep, and even provide a social outlet for people who tend to become isolated with this disease.

If you find you can't participate in the activities you used to, give yourself time to grieve, but then put your problem solving hat on. Like altering ingredients in a recipe to meet the needs of your IC diet, if there is an activity you love, find a way to alter it, and if you can't do what you thought you loved, find an activity you can do.

I loved riding bikes...loved the breeze in my hair, the speed....loved that my whole body had to be engaged to make that two-wheeled machine work, but riding a bike poses some different challenges for IC patients. Not only can the pressure of the seat be uncomfortable, but a ride over rough terrain can be jolting to your bladder. Mountain bikes can be a wonderful solution to both problems. Shop carefully for a bike that has high quality shocks on each of the wheels and the seat, and opt for a wider saddle seat. You might also consider upgrading to a seat that is especially designed for the anatomy, sporting a hollow middle. Or, if you are looking for a biking activity that you can do in your home or at the gym, try a recumbent bike! Always check with your physician or physical therapist if you have pelvic floor problems before you ride a bike. 

If you can't ride a bike, walking is a great activity. If you are afraid to be too far from a restroom, you can walk closer to home, stroll at the mall, or pick parks that have restrooms closer together. You can also take shorter, more frequent walks. Science has shown that taking three, 10 minute walks a day is the equivalent of taking one 30 minute walk. Fitness trackers like pedometers, smart watches, or Fitbits can help you keep track of your miscellaneous activity. If you have not tried these health tools, you might be surprised to find you are walking more that you think each day. 

In addition to walking and biking, consider going for a swim. Some IC patients experience an increase in symptoms when they swim. Yet swimming can be an excellent low impact activity for people whose bladders seem to bother them with every step. Once again, modification is the rule. If you have your own pool, ask your pool supply company about sanitation chemicals that don’t use chlorine, or switch to an ozone purification system, which reduces the amount of chlorination necessary. If you do swim in a chlorinated pool, keep your time in the water short, and rinse off immediately after you get out. In all cases, IC patients should change into dry clothes shortly after swimming to avoid the discomfort caused by lounging in wet swimsuits.

No matter what you do, it is important to have fun. To kick boredom (and increase overall fitness), participate in a variety of activities. Many fitness trackers are associated with online challenges. A little competition can do wonders for your motivation! Or, turn up the music at home and dance a little everyday! If you are interested in trying yoga or taking dance classes, check with your local adult education department. These classes are usually reasonably priced and require a limited obligation. Getting to meet new people is a great bonus! 

Finally, if you are uncertain of your health and abilities, make an appointment with a medical personal trainer. These professionals are a cross between a physical therapist and a personal trainer and can often be found at a local physical therapy office. With a bit of guidance and supervision, you may learn a few new tricks that help build muscle, strengthen your heart, and help you . Let's keep moving!

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Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate

Helping Yourself Is the First Step to Getting Well

For step by step guidance for creating your own personal interstitial cystitis meal plan, see: Confident Choices®: Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet.

For some basic, family-style, IC bladder-friendly recipes, see: Confident Choices®: A Cookbook for Interstitial Cystitis and Overactive Bladder

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