October is Lupus awareness month and so it seemed fitting to write a blog post to not only raise the awareness but to look into the ways that it can be treated. My mother has Lupus and so over the years have had a great deal of interest in finding out whether it can be helped or hindered by even the smallest amount of exercise.
So what is Lupus?
Lupus is an illness of the immune system meaning that the body's defence mechanism begins to attack itself through an excess of antibodies in the blood stream, consequently causing inflammation and damage to the muscles, joints and organs.
The symptoms include; Joint and muscle aches and pains, rashes, kidney problems, extreme fatigue and weakness, ulcers, hair loss, depression, flu-like symptoms, inflammation of the tissues covering the internal organs, chest and abdominal pain, poor circulation and migraines.
Treatments can include; Aspirin, heparin, warfarin, anti-malaria's, steroids such as prednisolone, chemotherapy and immunosuppressant's.
From researching Lupus and witnessing it in my mother first hand, I know that exercise is not the top of anyone's agenda when they have this condition, mainly because if you are tired and in pain it seems like the worst idea in the world! However after gathering together a cross-section of previous studies and by carrying out my own there has been a positive trend in exercise helping symptoms of Lupus!
According to previous studies, "exercise is vey important for normal muscle function and to maintain integrity of the bones" and in particular low weight bearing exercises such as swimming, pilates and yoga have seemed positive in contributing to this. A pilot study in 2000, was undertaken to see the effects of exercise in patients with lupus. Ten patients were tested and split into groups of either aerobic or in a range of motion/muscle strengthening group. The measures tested throughout were; fatigue, functional status, disease activity, cardiovascular fitness, isometric strength, bone mineral density of the lumber spine and femoral neck and parathyroid hormone and osteocalcin. Results proved that both groups showed some improvement in all areas, however the bone mineral density was unchanged. The study as a whole reiterates that exercise and movement are good at improving the symptoms of lupus and in particular aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening which includes low intensity dance forms, yoga and pilates.
From my own research I collected data across a range of Lupus patients that undertook a form of dance, yoga or pilates. All of the participants said that not only did this help their symptoms physically, they also had mental health benefits too. A few participants felt less tense and felt that the exercises themselves were a great reducer in eliminating the stress of everyday life living with Lupus.
An overall conclusion made from all my findings was that when partaking in light exercise participants has more energy, more strength, better flexibility and endurance and that it consequently bettered their quality of life.
I hope this post has not only raised awareness of what Lupus is, but has educated patients on the benefits of exercise. As a qualified professional in the fitness industry I am open to any questions via my contact form about how exercise can help or to give ideas of any exercises that may help.