I really should start to exercise again. Before my daughter was born, I exercised most days of the week. I have always struggled with my weight except for a period of a few years before my diagnosis when I could eat a banquet and still lose weight rapidly. Then it all piled back on (and on, and on…) after I was established on a gluten free diet.
But I didn’t only exercise to lose weight. Exercise made me feel healthier, stronger and much more energetic than I do now, although the fact that I have been sleep deprived and run off my feet for the past 2 years also plays a big part in making me feel like my daughter’s rag doll.
It is common knowledge that exercise is beneficial to control weight, to combat health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and to improve strength and flexibility.
But have you ever considered how exercise is specifically beneficial for people who suffer from coeliac disease? It is not something we usually think about.
I have compiled a list of reasons why we should get up from in front of our computer screens and get moving.
1. To control weight.
Gluten free products tend to be high in fat and calories. Many of us seem to get over enthusiastic about cooking gluten free sweets, or get excited when we find a new gluten-free product. But do we stop to think about the effect these products have on our health?
2. To strengthen bones.
Due to the damage in the intestinal villi in undiagnosed coeliac disease, there is decreased absorbtion of calcium. We can eat all the calcium in the world, but if there is poor absorbtion, the calcium we ingest is not doing its job. The result is often decreased bone density, depending on the age of diagnosis and how long you were ill before starting a gluten free diet. This decreased bone mineral density is known as osteoporosis and can lead to an increased risk of fractures. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging and jumping are particularly effective to control or improve bone density. However, if you have a high risk of fractures due to osteoporosis, it is best to go for a gentle walk and leave out the jogging and jumping exercises. Unfortunately exercise that does not involve body weight, like swimming, will not improve bone mass, although it does provide other benefits mentioned in this list.
3. To improve mood.
We all know how down we can get at times, no matter how positive your outlook of life is. I was particularly prone to experiencing low moods when I was first diagnosed due to the overwhelming lifestyle change we have to go through. With time it got much easier for me, but some take a little longer to adjust, especially if they have to deal with other associated conditions.
4. Because of the ”halo” effect.
It has been found that when people exercise they make healthier food choices. A healthy diet for a coeliac is not about gluten- free products and restaurants that cater to gluten free diets only. Gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy. We sometimes tend to forget that there is a huge range of naturally gluten free healthy foods we can choose from. Gluten free can be very healthy, if we make the right choices.
5. To strengthen muscles.
When you are feeling unwell, probably the last thing on your mind is exercise and physical activity. However, once a gluten free diet is established, and you are feeling better, strengthening exercises are beneficial to regain power, and prevent falls and fractures.
It is important to take it easy and increase your exercise gradually. If you have never exercised, a short walk that is progressed gently by increasing speed and the duration of exercise would be a great place to start. It is important to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you suffer from cardiac or respiratory problems, diabetes or suffer from high blood pressure.
Can you think of any other benefits of exercise for a person with coeliac disease?
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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyfelgueiras/8426281162/”>TonyFelgueiras</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>