Many people with muscular dystrophy (MD) find various types of exercise both psychologically and physiologically beneficial.
The key is to find something that works for you. However, a good starting point is one of the following three types of exercise:
Walking is excellent as you can vary the terrain, speed and duration to suit your strength and abilities. It’s also convenient and can easily be done outdoors or indoors on a treadmill under supervision, if necessary.
Remember to focus on walking at a comfortable, safe pace. You can maximise the cardiovascular benefit by swinging your arms.
Swimming laps, walking around the pool and simple aquatic exercises are good ways to exercise safely because the low impact and buoyancy of the water decreases the risk of injuring your joints or muscles.
While spending time in the pool can be very relaxing, be careful not to overdo it. Lengthy water sessions may increase muscle weakness and make it difficult to get out of the pool.
In the later stages of your illness, you can still get the cardiovascular benefits by doing supervised water exercises with your physical therapist.
While you can use both stationary and conventional bicycles, stationary cycling may be a better choice if you have muscular dystrophy. Balance and fatigue may cause problems when you’re cycling outdoors.
Indoor cycling on a stationary bicycle or exercise cycle allows you to exercise in a climate-controlled environment, take rest breaks more easily, and monitor your fatigue. You may opt instead for an exercise cycle, a pedalling machine that comes in different formats and which can be used on any flat surface.
Some exercise cycles offer a passive/active function. This uses an electronic motor to assist in moving your legs, arms or shoulders through the motion, even when you’re completely passive.
Another more strenuous cycling activity is an arm ergometry machine. This equipment enables you to cycle with your arms and is a low-impact alternative to conventional cycling. However, it’s cardio intensive, so make sure you get the thumbs up from your doctor and always do it under supervision.