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Soccer team
Community Corner: July 30, 2014
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Many of us may be on vacation or planning one. Teenagers and college students will be returning to school soon. Whatever your focus, don’t forget to build in time for exercise and having fun! Staying fit or getting in shape is important for everyone. If you have seizures or a loved one with seizures, you’ll also want to think about safety with whatever activity you choose.

Why is it important to stay fit or get in shape?

Staying healthy affects how we feel and act, and how well our body works!

  • Symptoms of some health conditions can worsen when people don’t sleep well, don’t eat well, are under or overweight, or are inactive. Seizures are one of these conditions.
  • Not eating well, not getting good quality of sleep or being inactive can be symptoms of stress or a mood disorder too. Our emotional health can affect seizures, just like our physical health, so we want to take care of both!
  • Sometimes having epilepsy leads to being out of shape or inactivity. For example, some people are not active because their seizures are too frequent and they fall and hurt themselves. Others may be inactive because they have trouble walking, seeing, or have other neurological problems that make it difficult to exercise or move around.
  • Some epilepsy medications may affect weight or lead to health problems. The medicines may be crucial for seizure control, but we also need to try and prevent or control these side effects.
  • Despite seizures, people can feel better when they are physically and mentally healthy in other ways.

I have seizures and my family is afraid I’ll get hurt if I play sports or exercise and have a seizure. What should do?

Staying safe is something that lots of people worry about. Yet, injury is not common to all kinds of seizures.

  • Talk to your health care team about your risk for injury. These risks will vary depending on the type of seizures you have, how often they occur, and other risks you may have.
  • Rarely do people have seizures as a result of exercise. However, if a person feels worse after they exercise, talk to your doctor about what else you can do.
  • If you like to play sports, talk to your health care team about the types of sports that may be best. If seizures are well controlled, there are no set restrictions, though if a sport has a high risk of head injury, talk to your doctor first.
  • Team practices in hot weather can be a problem. People can get dehydrated easily, especially if they aren’t drinking enough fluid during practice. Dehydration can trigger a seizure in people with or without epilepsy. Make a plan on how to prevent this from happening.
  • If you can, exercise in the coolest parts of the day.
  • Wear protective gear appropriate for the sport or activity that you are planning.
  • Make sure your coach or exercise buddy knows what to do if you have a seizure.
  • Consider wearing a device that has a GPS locator if you like to run or ride a bike, especially if you are alone. Then if you need help, someone could easily get to you. There are also devices, such as the SmartWatch, that can send alerts to a family member.

My seizures are not well controlled and I’m nervous about playing a team sport or going to a gym. How else can I exercise and get in shape?

  • Structured or team activities aren’t the only way to have fun and exercise! Just getting moving and being active is half the battle.  First, see your medical doctor and make sure you are physically okay to exercise and get his or her advice on how to get started.
  • Start by walking, even 10 minutes at a time a few days a week, and build up gradually to longer periods more often.
  • If there’s no place safe to walk where you live, walk around your house or apartment. Get a friend to take you to a safe place to walk a few times a week. Maybe combining walking with your errands is a good idea for you.
  • If you can’t walk safely, try chair exercises. A physical therapist can help you create a routine for this and help you get simple adaptive aids if needed.
  • There are lots of other activities that get people moving and provide a great workout. Try gardening, cleaning the yard or house, or dancing!
  • Develop a simple stretching or conditioning routine to do at home. Put it to music or try one of the exercise apps or video games.

Can I swim if I have epilepsy?

Yes, people with epilepsy can swim! However, the type and frequency of seizures will affect the type of precautions you should take.

  • Talk to your health care team first to learn what you should and should not do.
  • Generally, people with well-controlled seizures can swim and join water activities. Yet it’s best to swim and be around water with a buddy, preferably someone who would know what to do in case of a seizure.
  • Everyone should take precautions, such as wearing a life jacket, with water activities and avoid swimming over your head.
  • People who have uncontrolled seizures may have more restrictions, depending on the type and frequency of seizures.  For example,
    • Have someone within reach who can hold your head above water if a seizure occurs.
    • Don’t swim over your head.
    • Swim only when a lifeguard is around.
  • Even people who have seizures and other developmental or neurological problems can go in the water. Some programs have “disability swims” or dedicated times when trained instructors are available to take the person into the water to swim or do exercises. Check out these programs first to make sure they have training in seizures and enough people available.

Where can I learn more about exercise, staying fit and safety?

Here’s a few links to read more…

Hope everyone has a great week. Find a fun activity and keep moving!

Best wishes,

Patty Osborne Shafer RN, MN
Associate Editor/Community Manager
Epilepsy.com

Authored by: Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 7/2014
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