Don’t fall victim to “exercise resistance”
When it comes to exercise, more is usually better… but anything is always better than nothing at all. And this message is especially important for anyone suffering from chronic pain.
No matter what kind of pain you’re dealing with—back pain, bad knees, a sore hip—it can make even modest workouts feel impossible. But for as counterintuitive as it seems, moving less is a major mistake.
So, let’s talk about why consistent exercise is so universally vital… and then, I’ll outline simple ways you can keep moving—even through pain.
“Exercise resistance” is real
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “insulin resistance” before. It’s one of the first indicators of type 2 diabetes. Because when you flood your body with sugar long enough, eventually, it stops listening—requiring more and more insulin to get energy from the food you eat.
Similarly, there’s a phenomenon called “exercise resistance,” too.
In fact, one of the main metabolic benefits of exercise is that it will lower plasma triglycerides—“bad fats” in your blood—well into the following day. But if you’re not exercising enough, your body will stop reaping this health benefit altogether.
And a recent study helps explain why. After two days of controlled activity, ten subjects took a certain amount of steps daily, for two days:
- Low—around 2,500
- Limited—around 5,000
- Normal—around 8,500
Then, on the evening of the second day, all subjects ran for one hour. (A hardy, vigorous workout.) Afterward, researchers tested and compared post-meal metabolic responses.
The differences they found were stark: Among participants who had only taken a low or limited number of steps in the days prior, plasma triglycerides were nearly 25 percent higher after a vigorous workout, compared to subjects who had taken at least 8,500 steps daily.1
This finding indicates that the metabolic benefits of consistent, daily activity outweigh any one, single workout (like a vigorous run). And if you’re not consistently moving—even just walking—you’re ultimately paving the way towards “exercise resistance.”
Yoga takes the edge off chronic pain
As this new research shows, simply walking more every day is enough to keep exercise resistance at bay. But needless to say, there are many other ways to stay active on a daily basis—and some hold specific benefits to folks with chronic pain.
For example, one recent study showed that chronic, low-back pain sufferers find just as much relief from yoga as they do from physical therapy (PT)—the first (and often only) non-pharmacological recommendation most doctors make for the condition.
This study included 320 adults with significant debilitating pain. Three out of four were taking pain medication, and one out of five were on opioids. During the study, they were assigned to receive one of three interventions: yoga, physical therapy, or education.
Those in the yoga group did one 75-minute class per week. The PT group had fifteen 60-minute sessions. And the education group was given a book on back pain.
The yoga and PT interventions lasted 12 weeks. At the end of that period, both groups had a similar drop in medication usage (about 20 percent). But more people in the yoga group had at least a 30 percent reduction in pain than in the PT group. (There was no change in the education group.)2
Other research has shown similar benefits for patients with arthritis and knee pain: One study recruited 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis to take yoga classes twice a week, and then to practice once a week on their own for 8 weeks.
Results showed a dramatic 20 percent improvement in not only pain, but in energy levels, mood, and physical function, too—both at work and home—with regular yoga practice.3
Of course, for people whose mobility is severely limited by pain, even the thought of a yoga class is daunting. That’s why you might consider “chair yoga” instead…
If you can’t stand, try sitting
Chair yoga is exactly what it sounds like—you do it in a seated position. Which highlights one of the great things about yoga: It can be adapted in just about any way, to meet you where you are.
For people with back pain or arthritis in their knees, standing for a yoga class may cause too much strain. But doing yoga in a seated position relieves that strain—allowing you to regain function and reduce pain.
In fact, one recent study looked at the effectiveness of chair yoga for older adults with osteoarthritis. After attending a 45-minute session of “Sit ‘N’ Fit Chair Yoga” twice a week for eight weeks, participants reported improvement in their pain. They also noted that pain interfered less with their daily lives. Plus, their fatigue and gait (walking) speed improved as well.4
In other words, this study highlights that for every obstacle, there is a simple solution. So if a regular yoga class seems out of reach, look for an adaptive solution instead—like chair yoga. Then, keep doing it. Because who knows… after doing it consistently for a while, you may very well be strong enough to try other exercises, too.
Natural relief to keep you moving
Even though research shows consistent movement may help reduce your overall pain and mobility issues, I understand some may still need additional support.
But popular pain-relieving drugs—whether they’re prescription opioids or over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—simply aren’t safe.
Luckily, there are a variety of anti-inflammatory supplements currently on the market to help manage and relieve your symptoms alongside regular movement. Here are five of my favorites…
1.) Curcumin. This is the potent, active compound in the spice turmeric (the spice that gives curry its distinctive flavor and bright yellow color). One study found that 2 grams of curcumin extract provides pain relief similar to ibuprofen.
There are many bioavailable curcumin extracts available on the market today. (You can learn more in the December 2016 issue of Logical Health Alternatives). But as a general guideline, I recommend 500 mg of a bioavailable curcumin extract, twice per day, for overall health and pain relief.
2.) MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). This sulfur compound has been around in supplement form for a long time. Most of the evidence supporting its powerful pain-relieving effects is anecdotal. But in 2009, a Korean study showed that MSM does inhibit a number of inflammatory mediators. I generally recommend 2,000 mg, three times per day.
3.) Green lipped mussel extract. The compounds in green-lipped mussel extract can lower the body’s inflammatory responses and boost cartilage synthesis while blocking its destruction.5 Not only that, but it’s comprised of roughly 12 percent glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are complex amino sugars that increase uptake of water into the cartilage matrix.
This is key, because joint hydration decreases with age, causing them to lose critical cushion and shock absorption. Plus, GAG loss is part of what leads to chronic stiffness and injury. I generally recommend 1,000 to 1,500 mg of green lipped muscle extract per day.
4.) Wobenzyme. This is a unique combination of natural enzymes that help your body deal with inflammation, over both the long- and short-term. In fact, it’s used by the Austrian ski team for acute injuries! I recommend 4 pills, three times a day.
5.) Cannabidiol (CBD). I saved my current favorite for last. Because as I’ve written here before, you won’t find a safer, more natural treatment for chronic pain.
There are many CBD products on the market—from capsules, to balms, to oils. But I tend to prefer CBD oil for versatility of use and individualized dosage flexibility. When using an oil, I recommend starting out with a small amount and working your way up until you reach the desired result. (This process is known as titration.)
But no matter which form you choose, just make sure you’re using a product that comes from full-spectrum hemp extract (not “hemp oil” or “hemp seed oil”) to guarantee you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for.
At the end of the day, the many health benefits of regular exercise are virtually endless. And as we learned today, consistently moving is especially crucial for chronic pain sufferers. So start finding an exercise routine that works for you—and don’t be afraid to modify it according to your needs. Then, add some extra nutritional support when and if you need it.
- Burton HM, et al. “Daily Step Count and Postprandial Fat Metabolism.”Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Feb 1;53(2):333-340.
- American Academy of Pain Management (AAPM) 2016 Annual Meeting. Presented September 23, 24, 2016.
- MoonazH, et al. Yoga in Sedentary Adults with Arthritis: Effects of a Randomized Controlled Pragmatic Trial. The Journal of Rheumatology, 2015; 42 (7): 1194 DOI: 10.3899/jrheum.141129
- Park J, et al. “A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older AdultsWithLower Extremity Osteoarthritis.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.14717
- “New research and a clinical report on the use ofPerna canaliculus in the management of arthritis.” Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients (2000): 99-111. (vetriscience.com/whitepapers/VSL 250.pdf)