June is Exercise Month: Aleasha Wilkey

June 23,2021

For the PH world making your path through life can be difficult. Striving to achieve more and be free of restraint can cause a struggle within. This inward conflict is challenging and real. The constant battle within rages back and forth. You can do “that.” Come on, you can do more, just get up and do “it.” But if I do “that” the shortness of breath will begin, the palpitation, chest pain and the lungs burning will show up.

So how do we overcome it? How do we engage in this battle and come out on top? One step at a time. Learn your enemy, adapt to your surroundings and then you will overcome the obstacles that lie ahead.

You already know your enemy’s (pulmonary hypertension) limitations and you already know physical activity will help the body and soul. Let’s learn how to adapt and overcome our limitations. Let’s make the passage to our goal a little more pleasant.

Exercise to some is an ugly word, so let’s call it activity instead. Physical activity is defined as bodily movement that requires energy. When hearing the word exercise, we think of it as an intense movement, hot and sweaty. However, for us with PH, walking across the room can be intense. So, how can we vacuum our living room or wash the dirty dishes in the sink? Just stay active. Go at your own pace. Don’t try to win the marathon, just show up and enjoy the moment.

Learn adaptation. Sit on a stool to wash the dishes or sit in a chair next to the dishwasher while setting the clean dishes out on the countertop. If you must, rest for 10-15 minutes before placing them in the cabinet. Sit in a chair and vacuum the area around you. Or stand and only vacuum a 5X5 section at a time. Sit and rest in between the vacuuming sessions. Start by walking to the front door, then out to the driveway, walk down to the mailbox. Each step, each task that you do will make you stronger.

We can do it but, the real struggle sometimes is the person between our elbows. Fear of fatigue, fear of pain or shortness of breath: that is the real battle. Remember, taking one step at a time, taking one task at a time, and learning ways to adapt will make us stronger. You don’t have to run, just walk slowly, and walk further every week.
Sit in the chair and do leg and arm movements. Move with a stretch/exercise band. Do curl ups with a can of soup in your hand while sitting. Every little bit of movement we do helps our endurance and our mental health. Stay active, even if it’s one tiny movement. That is the key, don’t lie idle or the enemy will win. Stay active, become stronger, and you will win!

Do you miss gardening? Sit in a chair next to it and get the long-handled tools to remove the weeds or to get your produce. Plant vined foods, like cucumbers or tomatoes that grow in an upward position. This allows you to get to the produce without bending over.

The key to accomplishing our goals is learning how to adapt. Once learning adaptation techniques specific for you, you will then begin to see the fruit of your activity. More movement at the correct pace causes increased motivation within. You will, one day, walk further than you ever thought possible. The more you accomplish physically the more you will win the battles within. Maintain a healthy body weight and it can help improve your mental health and quality of life. Remember to go one step at a time. You got this!

Aleasha received COVID-19 relief funds from the Team PHenomenal Hope Unmet Needs Patient Impact Fund. Learn more about how this fund supports PH patients at teamph.org/unmetneeds.

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