How to Start Exercising With Epilepsy
Safety is always the most important thing when it comes to an exercise program for anyone of any ability level. Below are steps to take to ensure that you're putting yourself in the safest position possible.
- First consult with your doctor, medical team, and support system/caregivers. Do not start an exercise program without the permission of your medical team.
- Use the Buddy System. Begin your exercise program with supervision or make it fun and invite your friends/family along to join you. Exercising with others helps everyone and can help you stay motivated too!
- If you are joining a gym, make sure you talk with the trainers/owners about your epilepsy and share your seizure response plan and seizure first aid tips if your seizures are not controlled. At the very least, let people know where you are going to be. If you won't have access to immediate help, take your phone with you in case of an emergency.
- Keep identification with you. Wear a medical alert bracelet or have some type of identification with you that has your name, health conditions, medications, allergies, and emergency contact(s). Find tips and resources here.
- Learn about safety with exercise and sports. Review these tips related to sports, exercise, and seizures to learn about specific steps you can take to stay safe.
- Avoid using a treadmill alone if your seizures are not controlled. Falling on a treadmill can lead to major injuries. It's better to run outside or on a track.
- Less is more at first. Once you have safety measures in place, begin small. If you're new to exercising, consider working with an exercise specialist to help you.
- Sometimes people are confused or unsure where to start and what activity may be best for them. Start now by making small changes to your day. This will help develop habits to increase your daily activity. It doesn't have to be complicated or take hours of your day. In fact, it shouldn't! Some examples include:
- Walk to work or climb stairs instead of taking the elevator.
- Pick a time and set an alarm to do squats, pushups, or planks each day.
- Increase your pace when doing household chores like vacuuming, mowing the lawn, and taking out the trash.
- Aim for 30 minutes or more of physical activity most days of the week.
- Set Yourself Up for Success. Make sure other lifestyle habits are in check before diving into exercise. Are you getting enough sleep (8+ hours a night)? Are you eating/fueling your body properly? Are you managing stress in your daily routine? By making sure your body is properly rested, fueled, and de-stressed, you will be better prepared to achieve your exercise goals safely.
- Listen to your body and record your results. Not every day is the same. Some days you will have more energy and some days less. Respect your body and give credit where credit is due.
- Our bodies generally give us signs about what is good or bad for us. Recording the work you do during your activity and how you feel before, during, and after will be your best coach.
- It's always motivating to see progress. By logging your workouts you can not only feel your improvement, but see it.
- You also may notice lifestyle habits that trigger “good” or “not-so-good” days. For example, if you only sleep 6 hours, chances are your energy will suffer the next day. Or, if you eat a lot of sugar the night before, chances are you won't feel your best the next day. After you have made sure you are prepared to exercise safely, you're ready to begin your program.
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