There are what seem like unlimited studies demonstrating the benefits of movement for almost every chronic illness. Why? Because it is so important to life! I wrote a whole article about why movement is important with illness and I also made a whole video discussing exercise and chronic illness.
Although I could spend all day discussing literature that supports the importance of movement in chronic illness and dive deep into the mechanisms by which exercise helps and what pathways movement activates in the body, I won’t bore you. I’ll just take the time to share a few key points.
Exercise programing and increased daily activity has been shown to reduce pain and fatigue levels in a variety of chronic conditions (1, 2, 3, 21) while increasing flexibility and strength for patients (4). Although exercise may seem counter intuitive or challenging with pain conditions, it actually benefits patients long term (17, 18, 21). It also serves those with various forms of polyneuropathy (19. 20).
Research has also shown that graded exercise can reduce fatigue levels and associated symptoms in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (5, 6, 25) and Lyme disease (21). Exercise is incredibly beneficial to the mind and brain functioning, as well. It helps with brain cognition, including improving memory, concentration, and learning (22, 23, 24). Depression and anxiety can be reduced to levels comparable to drug therapy, especially long-term exercise with continued programming (7, 8, 9,10, 11). Besides aiding in primary depression and anxiety, movement has been shown to aid in lowering levels of co-morbid depression as a result of chronic illness (12). Strength training in particular can increase quality of sleep, life, and overall mood in depression patients (13).
Many with chronic illness deal with gut disturbances, generally some form of leaky gut syndrome. Much of the population these days is dealing with leaky gut, in general, which can eventually lead to chronic illness or mental health concerns, as well. Some newer research has demonstrated the positive effects of exercise on healing the gut microbiome, specifically because it may increase something called butyrate, which can aid in gut repair (14).