Can Exercise Help A Chronic Illness?

22nd September 2019

It is estimated that around 15 million people in the UK are living with some form of chronic illness. Of course this estimate may be conservative as there may be many others suffering from a condition that goes unreported. A chronic illness is generally a long term condition for which there is no cure. This includes such conditions as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, depression and Meniere’s Disease. This is only a small fraction of a never ending list of varying chronic illnesses that many people face every day.



What is also disturbing is that many chronic illnesses start to show their face to men and women in their mid life years, usually over the age of 50. This is due to natural deterioration of the body and conditions such as rheumatism and arthritis can rear their ugly head around this time. I am now 56 years old and I have noticed aches and pains starting to creep in, especially early morning when I haven’t been mobile.

So, this blog post is aimed at those of you who may be suffering from some form of chronic illness and / or those of you over the age of 50 who may have noticed the odd ache and pain recently. I must stress that this post is written by me. I am NOT a doctor and so I am not medically qualified to make a judgement on anyone else. So ALWAYS check out with your doctor before embarking on any fitness or exercise regime. I will, though write from my own viewpoint and my own chronic illness to tell you how exercise has helped me in my quest for health and fitness.


As I previously said, I am 56 years old and therefore am facing the harsh reality of ever increasing aches and pains. This is coupled with the fact that I have a chronic illness which I have had for over thirty years, Meniere’s Disease. I wrote about my battle with Meniere’s in a previous post. Please click here to read the post if you missed it earlier.

For those of you who have never heard of Meniere’s Disease, basically it is a chronic condition of the ear. It affects balance and hearing and the main symptoms are vertigo, tinnitus, vomiting and hearing loss. For me, the worst symptom is vertigo, which can be disabling and frightening at the same time. After thirty years, I still haven’t become used to this truly debilitating symptom.


About six years ago I suffered from the worst Meniere’s attack I have ever faced. My inner ear literally exploded. I lost all balance and for weeks I did not know which way up I was in the world. I literally crawled everywhere in the house as I could not walk as I had lost my balance function. In a word my life stopped for about four months as I battled to regain my ability to walk. I started with walking sticks and I had intensive physio. I lost my driving licence and I lost my independence and so it wasn’t long before depression set in.

I battled through with a cocktail of drugs and the support of family. Perhaps my biggest saviour was exercise. EXERCISE?! Yes, the truth is, exercise saved my life. You see, as part of my rehabilitation, I had to perform vestibular exercises four times a day. These exercises helped to retrain my brain and my balance system and helped me on the road to walking again. And so, since then I have been devoted to continuing my exercises AND keeping as fit and healthy as I can. My ENT consultant told me that exercise and movement were the BEST things for me as this kept my brain, ears and eyes working well together. Yes, I still have Meniere’s attacks now but as soon as I can, I am up and exercising again, stimulating my brain to work in conjunction with my ears and eyes more efficiently.


Here I am at the David Lloyd Club doing my regular exercises to help improve my balance.

I am known for my frequent visits to the gym at the David Lloyd Club in Harrogate and people always laugh at my dedication. Little do they know that those visits to the gym keep my chronic condition at bay and my daily workouts truly are life saving. Yoga and Zumba classes have also been crucial in helping restore my balance system back to an acceptable level. More and more people are using the gym and exercising as a way to help their chronic illness and also to help with depression that may result due to the illness.


Yoga is a fabulous class to help improve flexibility and general wellbeing whatever your age

Experienced personal trainers are there to help you develop your own exercise programme to suit your needs and your condition. Even gentle, frequent exercise can help with painful conditions such as rheumatism as improved flexibility and strengthening can alleviate symptoms. As mentioned before exercise can have a positive impact on a person’s mood and this should never be underestimated. To read a previous post I wrote about the role of a personal trainer please click here.

As I said before PLEASE consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime, especially if you suffer from a chronic condition. I do realise there are some conditions that prohibit exercise. Lastly, always choose a gym that has understanding and well qualified instructors so you can approach your exercise safely.

And if you ever see me standing on one leg in the gym, don’t laugh at my impression of a flamingo. I am, in fact strengthening my balance with vestibular exercises.

Do you have a chronic condition and if so, has exercise been advised for you?

Until next time dear friends

Much love

Susanna x

*This post has been sponsored by David Lloyd Club in Harrogate but as always my words and opinions are my own*



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