Feet jumping

The benefits of exercise after illness

Why it’s good for you and tips for success

It’s well known that being physically active can help to prevent illness, but can it also support your recovery? Valion Health’s Exercise Physiologist Gisela Deriard talks to us about exercising after illness, including the importance of a tailored approach and her tips for success.


Exercise that’s right for you

Gisela says there are many benefits to exercising when you’re recovering from illness, including:

  • boosting your immune system
  • improving your heart health
  • increasing your bone and muscle strength
  • reducing your feelings of tiredness
  • supporting your overall mental health and wellbeing.

But while we know the good it can do, there’s no doubt that illness can make the idea of exercise harder with the combination of physical and mental fatigue, aches and pain, physical changes and emotional exhaustion all taking a heavy toll. Gisela says that’s why it’s essential to consider your fitness level and individual goals and then take a tailored approach to exercise.

“It’s no surprise that something as simple as walking around the block can feel like a step too far for many people recovering from illness. That’s why a successful exercise program must consider not only how to support your recovery, but also how to improve your quality of life and the steps that you need to take to sustain it,” she says.


5 steps to success

Gisela says that it’s possible for everyone to experience the benefits of exercise no matter where you are in your recovery journey. And that support and consistency are key factors in making it quicker and easier to start exercising again after illness. So what are Gisela’s top tips?


1. Check in with your healthcare team

Whatever stage of recovery you’re at, it’s important to get the all clear from your healthcare providers before starting a new exercise regime or switching up your current one. They can assess your current health status and understand your goals – whether it’s improving your quality of life, getting you back to work, going up stairs without pain, or reducing your symptoms so you can enjoy your hobbies. They can also discuss any concerns you might have and let you know if there’s any physical activity you should avoid during your recovery.


2. Slow and steady wins the race (and it’s not a sprint!)

When it comes to exercising after illness, it’s important to start slowly and set realistic and achievable goals. Be kind to yourself and remember that generic advice from the fitness industry doesn’t always apply to people recovering from illness (there’s certainly no one-size-fits-all approach). Remember you don’t need to spend hours exercising to see the benefits but rather start small and build up gradually. If you need some more motivational tips, see how to make exercise part of your daily routine.


3. Listen to your body

It’s important to be in tune with your body. Pay attention to how your body responds to physical activity while you’re doing it but also in the hours and days afterwards. If you experience pain or fatigue beyond your baseline it might be a sign to take things back a notch. How much physical activity you’re able to do changes in line with your physical and emotional capacity and it can take time to adjust.


4. Stay the course

Consistency is key when it comes to exercising during or after illness. Understanding from the outset that some days will feel impossible while others will feel easy will make it easier to keep going in the long term. Working with an exercise physiologist (and enlisting a friend or two!) can help in managing these ups and downs, particularly in the early stages.


5. Celebrate the wins (you deserve it!)

When it comes to exercise anything is better than nothing and it’s important to keep the focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Don’t forget to acknowledge and share your wins to keep you motivated and on track. Remember that what counts as effective exercise is different for everyone and any activity that gets you moving (and increases oxygen and blood flow to an area) is making a positive difference!


Don’t forget to check your Teachers Health Extras cover for exercise physiology benefits. The Healthy Lifestyle benefit can also help with the cost of gym memberships and more!


Valion Health supports eligible Teachers Health members through the Cancer Support Program.