Lupus SK Society Inc.

Working together to conquer Lupus - 1 in 1000 persons in Canada have Lupus

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Blaine Mackie: "Lupus, Physiotherapy and Exercise"
Presented at the Fall 2011 Lupus SK Symposium. Summary submitted by Chris Weber

When Blaine Mackie speaks, people listen. Blaine owns and operates Mackie Physiotherapy Clinic in Saskatoon and as a guest speaker at the fall symposium, he clearly came to do more than just talk. He came to motivate.

After being introduced to his audience, Blaine stepped out from behind the podium and began his presentation about exercise and lupus. He never stopped moving until he was finished. Blaine's energy and enthusiasm were quite contagious. In short order, he had us finishing the refrain of one of his favorite sayings: If you don't use it, YOU WILL LOSE IT!

Blaine's passion for his work was inspirational and one could tell that he gets great satisfaction out of being able to impact people's lives in such a positive way. By his own admission, his presentation could have been given to any audience concerned with health and fitness, but he still managed to address the specific concerns of people with lupus.

Even healthy people need exercise, but the right kind of exercise can be especially helpful to those who live with lupus. I say, “right kind” because Blaine explained that certain types of exercises are to be avoided if you have lupus. Running, step aerobics and skipping rope are examples of high impact exercises that are harmful.

Exercise that gets our joints in motion can be quite helpful, though. Blaine explained how our joints have a lubrication system that goes to work when we exercise. Inactivity means reduced lubrication, which leads to reduced mobility and increased pain when joints are used.

Exercise increases blood flow and delivery of energy. Blaine cited a study of the effect of a graded exercise program for people with lupus. It was clear from this study that exercise can have a positive effect in the reduction of fatigue. Lupus and fatigue go hand-in-hand, so it was good to hear that there is something we can do that doesn't involve going to the pharmacy for another prescription.

Other benefits from exercise are more generic. Weight control, psychological well being from the “feel good” endorphins, empowerment that we get from being pro-active and relief from stress are among many of the other benefits of a careful exercise program.

I say, “careful” because Blaine spelled out certain conditions for those with lupus who plan to use exercise to improve their lives. Timing is important. Exercise should be avoided if your lupus is flaring up or symptoms are pronounced. Exercise can be resumed when things improve.

Blaine stressed the importance of finding a professional who understands lupus and can design a program to suit the individual. Lupus affects people in different ways and this must be taken into account. He suggested certain types of exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, resistance training and flexibility training. Experimentation will be required to find the right type, combination and intensity of exercise for each individual. Exercising with lupus means being able to adapt your routine on a daily basis according to how your body feels.

Blaine also stressed the importance of a “baby steps” approach to exercise. It is better to be doing something rather than nothing and we shouldn't dismiss the value of even the most minimal exercise. He outlined some of the pitfalls to avoid when exercising. Most notable, perhaps, is the tendency to want to advance too quickly. We do not get out of shape overnight, so we cannot expect to get back into shape overnight, either. We have to set realistic goals for our exercise plans.

Flare-ups of lupus, or problems with a certain exercises might require dialing things back a bit. We should not be discouraged by this. We have to listen to our bodies and find the threshold of tolerance for the exercise that can be maintained.

Blaine paced around, bounced on his toes and waved his arms to punctuate many of these points and others that he made during his talk. Here is a sample of one of his anecdotes: |A person is walking to the end of the block and back every day. This gets very easy, so the next day the person adds on an extra block. That doesn't sound like much, but in effect, the person has doubled their workout and feels like they've been hit by a bus. (not quite the way Blaine put it)

What Blaine suggested was a more gradual approach to increase when we feel we are ready for it. If one block feels easy, try one block and one more house next time. If that works out okay, add another house to the routine and so on, until you find that threshold...the safe way.

Blaine opened the floor to discussion and many questions were asked. One person asked about motivation. It is one thing to get started at something, but another thing altogether to be able to stick with it and the person wanted to know how to keep the motivation going. Blaine's advice was to make exercise a “ritual”. That way, you don't have to think about doing it, you “Just Do It”. This Nike slogan was the other mantra that Blaine had us repeating.

On a personal note...I had been suffering from tennis elbow all summer and was wearing an elbow cuff at the symposium to help with the pain. I was so inspired by all the things Blaine said that day that I was determined to do something to about this problem. I began a very slow road back to an exercise program I had been following a year ago, but discontinued due to problems I had caused myself by going too hard, too fast.

I have taken the path Blaine has suggested. I found my threshold and added one more house to my walk whenever I felt I could handle it. It works. The tennis elbow has all but ceased to bother me and I am once again able to do a respectable workout that I am happy with.

I am sure that everyone found something in Blaine's presentation that they could use to make living with lupus a bit more tolerable. Our thanks to Blaine Mackie for sharing his time and expertise with us at the fall symposium.