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5 Reasons I Enjoy Working Out as a Young Woman With Chronic Conditions

I’m not trying to be tragic, I swear I’m not.

But don’t many of us have a hard relationship with our bodies? Especially if you have a chronic condition, physical or mental. Because it seems like there’s always something: the side effects of the medications, the mere symptoms of the thing you are dealing with, the unthinkable future. It feels like there’s always something that might make us not like our bodies that much.

And I truly believe that society hasn’t taught us to see exercise or working out or healthy food as something to reward ourselves with, but rather as a punishment. It doesn’t help that sometimes when we go to a doctor, they may make us believe that our depression, or our anxiety, or our fibromyalgia, or our arthritis, or whatever will be cured with working out or by eating certain foods and restricting others.

Fact: As much as it may help, no amount of bananas or almonds or dark chocolate can singlehandedly send a major depressive episode into remission. Believe me, I’ve tried.

But somehow, when we go to the doctor’s office and he suggests working out and following certain diets, we might believe it will either cure our illness, or we start to repel it. And that’s not good.

So we may feel stuck here, with our chronically ill bodies, with our frustrations with being either over or underweight but never in the “correct” spot, having to sacrifice certain functions or endure some unimaginable symptoms because of the side effects of medications or because of the same condition.

I’ve been there. I’m there. And I decided to work out, so here’s my experience:

1. It’s a huge mood stabilizer. No, it ain’t medication, and (I’m biased here as a psychologist) I would dare to say that for me, at least, it isn’t quite as helpful as therapy. But it truly helps to get certain stuff out of your system during those moments when your anxiety or your hyperactive state might be getting you out of your “good” zone. I’ve known, for some, it is truly therapeutical.

2. It makes you appreciate stuff. I have arthritis. I know in a moment, my body might not be in a good shape in mobility terms, and even if I’ve only had it for a year, I’ve already felt the awfulness of feeling how my body just won’t work, of trying to move and not being able to, of having to stay at home because the day is very cold, or the day was very stressful… So when you are working out, and your body is in fact answering to what you demand of it, it’s one of the best feelings ever.

3. It’s a way of saying thanks. I’ve felt my body collapsing from the side effects, or the new medications, or because I was taken off the old ones way too many times to keep a count on them. And I know my body does so much for me, and I truly haven’t give it the best conditions. (For starters, my immune system sucks because it attacks himself. To end, I have to endure the physical and psychological toll that comes from struggling with daily anxiety, mood swings, depressive episodes and much more.) So doing something for it, improving the conditions, is like a huge thank you note. I am alive because my body has kept me alive.

4. It’s nice to feel normal for a change. I don’t have to explain this, the ones who need to get me will.

5. No, it won’t cure your condition. No, it isn’t as magical as sometimes it is portrayed when people tell you, “With endorphins from working out you’ll be OK and it’ll all pass.” No. But, it may help. Because just doing it is a sign of self-care and self-improvement. It is a huge effort and if you do so, congratulations.

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Getty Image via Ridofranz