Exercise is stressful for our bodies. However not everything that is stressful is bad long-term. Regular exercise is believed to make us stronger and more resistant, but does it really work for everyone? I have been exercising for many years now, because I, like everyone else, believed that it's good for me. And most definitely in some ways it is. For example, I am "metabolically healthy". I think maybe exercise has to do something with that. However, after a workout I feel extremely tired, and my muscles hurt more than usually. It's not that kind of "good" pain that reminds you that you worked your body hard, it's persistent pain that doesn't go away for at least 2 days, when even pain medications don't help.
On top of intensified pain, I started to notice that my mood gets worse after I exercise - which is completely the opposite of what we usually hear about physical activity. Whether it's pain that causes a mental slump, and I feel like I am severely depressed, or fatigue, something is contributing to it, because after proper rest for a few days, it goes back to "normal" again.
Despite everyone claiming that exercise improves sleep, my restless legs situation gets worse when I work out, therefore my sleep is not great either. And what can be more important than good sleep?
I used to think, that it was completely normal, and my worsening condition is the price I pay for getting stronger. And don’t get me wrong, I can grow a muscle and look stronger, but that doesn’t ever reflect how I feel: constantly tired and in pain. And only now I am starting to realize that how I feel is the most important indicator of health.
I was surprised to find out that CDC excluded exercise from their chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) treatment guidelines. Why it is so is still unknown, but specialists now understand that exercise can make the condition much worse. Just like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exercise doesn’t cure chronic fatigue.
As I have shared before, I haven’t been diagnosed with CFS or anything like that yet, but recently I found that my own research helps guide my doctor in (hopefully) the right direction. It baffles me a little, but it is what it is. So I’ll keep replying on myself.
Am I trying to say that exercise is just inherently bad for me? No, like I said, I am sure there are some benefits. In fact, I think I need more time to really figure out what works best for me. When I don't move my body at all, I don't feel good either. Exercise helps me feel less stiff and more confident. But now when I know that I don't have to tolerate pain and extreme fatigue caused by exercise and any other stressful activity really (when I can), I can modify my physical activities, adjusting it to my needs.
I think probably walking, light yoga and progressive muscle relaxation are the way to go for me. Stretching is important but I must make sure I am not overdoing it.
Does all this mean exercise isn’t good for you? I can’t tell. We are all different. I heard that some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome find it helpful to gradually increase their physical activity, and maybe I am one of those people as well. But before we have more information, I wanted to share my experience with you, so you could decide for yourself. Maybe taking step back from exercise and listening to your body more can help you out.