I take issue with this because, in common parlance, use of the word "exercise" implies elevating your heart rate and aerobically challenging your body.
Thanks to recent presentations by Dr Mark VanNess, we now know this is not a good strategy for coping with ME.
So my post for ME Awareness is going to explain why the word, "exercise", gets my back up so much! I suspect I am not the only ME sufferer who reacts this way!
Why ARE we so sensitive to this word, "exercise"?
Let's look first of all, at the advice about exercise given to the general public in the UK.
Turning to the good old NHS website, and we can find a plethora of articles on how we might build more exercise into our lives. All good so far.
However I'm interested in how they define exercise, and in the article on the Benefits of Exercise I found the following:
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can't sing the words to a song.
Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities are:
Daily chores such as shopping, cooking or housework don't count towards your 150 minutes. This is because the effort needed to do them isn’t hard enough to get your heart rate up.
- walking fast
- water aerobics
- riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- playing doubles tennis
- pushing a lawn mower
So, it seems MY understanding of the word "exercise", is indeed the way the NHS view the word. Exercise basically means getting breathless and sweaty. Even daily chores like housework don't count!
So WHY oh WHY is this word ever used in the context of advice about ME?
Could it be that the medical profession use the word in a different way? Maybe that is part of the answer, afterall physios talk about "stretching exercises" and these exercises don't usually involve an elevated heart rate? Oh and schools also give out maths "exercises" as homework!
So perhaps "exercises" (that is: activities to do as a form of practice) are totally detached from the meaning of our word "exercise" (activities that raise heart rate)?
If that is the case, then "exercise" (singular) should still never be used in an ME title!
Maybe we could find a better word?
I like the idea of using the word "movement". Even the word "stretching" sounds too much like a fitness activity for me. Let's face it, I fully agree that it is a good idea to do some sort of activity that will help reduce the amount of muscle wasting and potential bone loss. Yet throwing the word "exercise" into the title of an ME article often means that the wrong impression is given.
So what level of "movement" should ME patients do?
Exercise in the conventional sense is obviously out! Dr Mark VanNess has explained how keeping heart rate low is important, because an ME patient cannot increase their aerobic respiration effectively.
When I heard him speak in Newry in February this year, he suggested that we keep our HR below 110 bpm as a good starting point.
Elsewhere I've seen the formula
(220 - Age ) x 0.6
used to find a suitable maximum HR for some-one with ME.
In my case this works out at only 101bpm!
It is incredibly difficult to do anything with this as a constraint. Walking across the kitchen to make a cuppa usually lifts it to 110, and having a bath or shower raises it above 140!
Nothing, that the NHS would count as "exercise", could possibly be done within this constraint!!
Yet the NHS is so wedded to the idea that exercise is some sort of magic "cure all" that they can't admit that advice to exercise will actually make ME patients much worse!
Exercise, in the sense that we all use the word, is never going to help ME.
Dr VanNess used the analogy of a credit card to explain how ME patients are slammed with huge interest rates when they exceed their low income energy budgets. He said that keeping exertion levels to a minimum could help ME patients to avoid the high interest penalties (often called a "crash") and so get the most from their limited energies.
Obviously exercise in the conventional sense was not what he was talking about! In my view the word should now be totally removed from the lexicon of ME related writings - unless of course it is to advise that "exercise should be avoided"!!
I'll end with a quote from Dr Paul Cheney:
“The whole idea that you can take a disease like ME and exercise your way to health is foolishness. It is insane.”
Also on my blog:
Exercise The Catch 22
Exercise The Catch 22
Links to other blog posts written for #May12BlogBomb can be found at: