5 Ways to Exercise With Lyme Disease

If you have chronic Lyme like me, then you know that exercising can be a huge challenge.

Your joints might hurt or swell, you might even find it difficult to walk. Plus, you are TIRED. Whether or not you are going through treatment, you might feel hungover, potentially from the toxins building up in your body from the “die-off” of bacteria or candida.

I remember my doctor saying that this toxicity is worsened by stagnant lifestyle. But if it’s difficult to move your body from treatment, how can you detox? How can you move around when you feel like you’re going to faint just from walking?

Below are a few of the ways I was able to exercise during treatment and during recovery. This isn’t meant to replace any advice you get from your practitioner- you should of course consult a health care provider first. But I hope my successes with the below help you in your Lyme journey!

Lastly, the key thing to remember is: Don’t over do it. Movement is important, but it isn’t worth you fainting or falling!

1. Yoga

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Yoga is great for detox! But also for people with low energy (like me, thank you POTS). I’m really not that into yoga, but being able to do something is important. Start with gentle/beginner classes, then as your energy increases, mix it up if you feel confident! You know your body the best– so don’t venture into something like hot yoga unless you know the heat won’t get to you. As someone who can’t regulate her temperature, I didn’t try hot yoga until two months after treatment, with plenty of fluids.

2. Light Weight Lifting

Chronic Lyme can cause muscles to weaken and shrink. For me, my heart, lungs, nerves and liver were also affected. During treatment, I experienced a crazy amount of weight-loss, though others may experience extreme weight-gain. I was weak, tired and my endurance was low. Light weight-lifting/toning and light exercise classes allowed me to keep some muscle and strength, my body cooperated more, and when I went into recovery, the transition was smoother.

3. Walking

I know. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, walking doesn’t exactly sound like working out. But during treatment, if it’s all you can do, then do it! I would start with 15 minutes per day, and worked my way up to a steady 30. On some days, I could do even longer, and those days were considered wins. On other days, I could barely make it 10 minutes, and I would chalk it up to a bad day. Don’t push yourself too hard, but any movement will help.

4. Bicycling

Note: This is a few months, after treatment ended, with my doctor’s blessing. I was never into cycling before. Mainly because I lived in DC and I felt that as a pedestrian, the cyclists would never yield appropriately. But the fact is, it’s an amazing, low-impact way of getting good exercise. I used to be a runner, but my knees and feet aren’t really having it anymore given the impact, so cycling has been an fantastic cardio substitute.

5. Stair-Stepping

I am fortunate enough to have a gym that has a stair-stepper, specifically the kind that works like an escalator, so it’s really like you are climbing stairs! This is also terrific low-impact cardio for 15-20 minutes at your own pace. Again, you will have to get the blessing of your doctor before you embark on this. But it has really helped me gain strength in my legs, which helps my POTS symptoms– double win.


Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell is one of PW's consultants and patient editors. She has lived with late-stage, chronic Lyme and POTS since circa 2002. She has also served as a caregiver to close family members with late-stage, chronic Lyme. Before diagnosis, she served as a business consultant for a large corporation and PM for a small digital branding agency. Now, she is proactive in the rare and neurological disease community, spreading awareness and advising on matters of health and lifestyle when living with a chronic illness.

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