Walking is the Best Exercise for Liver Disease
For most of the last decade, I couldn’t even pretend that I was an athlete. Okay, with declining liver health, I kept cycling and walking fast trying to boost my energy, but it wasn’t on an athletic level. I’ve beat the Hepatitis C Virus and liver cancer, and I’m still at it. Not that I ever quit. Quitting is not in my vocabulary. I work out in various ways and have written about how to figure out the best way to get fit here and here. Running is fun and there are so many benefits, but you have to train slowly when you have health troubles. There are many reasons that walking is the best exercise for liver disease and even more methods to do it the smart way.
When you are starting a walking program, think about how much it will help you live stronger longer!
Bone Strength – When you get regular workouts by walking at a fairly fast pace, your bones get more dense. Anytime you do a weight bearing exercise, your body kicks in and helps to make you stronger.
Weight control – Fat around the liver creates disease and can lead to obesity, diabetes, and liver scarring. Whoa Nelly! That was a scary sentence to read. Don’t be scared… just start walking.
Fighting fatigue – If you’re thinking you are too tired to walk, think again. Walking a little over several days can increase your energy. Soon you will be walking further on down the road to better health!
Heart health –This one always scared me. I am a former smoker and used exercise to help me quit smoking. I watched my heart rate go off the charts during exercise. Remember, your heart is a muscle and responds to a workout just like the muscles in your arms and legs. When threatened with varices from end stage liver disease, I knew that it could lead to a bleed out. That is one of the reasons I am sooo excited to have the new Garmin 735XT on my arm. It’s my fitness watch and keeps monitor on my heart rate.
I’m going on a woohoo about the Garmin:
My doctors and family have always applauded my efforts to stay in shape while dealing with HCV treatment and eventually a liver transplant. Howeva they were afraid that I was a little reckless. For example, the time I walked out of the house several days after the transplant and circled the block alone got me in trouble with a capital T. My Garmin Forerunner 735 XT has a GPS tracker so even if my brain fog kicks in, they can find me.. And it even helps me monitor my heart rate with graphs and numbers.
Honestly, I feel a lot safer knowing what my training heart rate is. I can also monitor my VO2 which is a way of watching my oxygen level. The Strava Suffer Score gets high real easily for me. I’m learning to keep it down and give myself plenty of time for recovery. I take it easy between workouts to give my body time to recover.
Now I say all of this like an athlete, but remember, I’m just an average woman who beat the Hepatitis C Virus and lived with ESLD, fought off cancer, and got a transplant last year. Yes, I’m “training” for the Transplant Olympic Games. It all just means I am walking as fast as I can as often as I can. And it is fun. So let’s add a final benefit to walking.
Happiness – You’ll be happy you walked. When you exercise, a shower of chemicals washes negative emotions off of your brain. Your mood is perkier. You feel stronger. I pinkie promise. I did 10 minutes on my mini-trampoline rebounder this morning. I feel stronger and more alert. Of course, I’ll still get my nap. And track my recovery and heart rate.
I hope you’ll be motivated to walk and have tips to get you started:
You can start with short 10 minute strolls and work up slowly. Add 5 minutes every week.
Get an activity tracker like a Fitbit or Garmin. If that’s beyond your budget, download an app. I have found wrist step counters in the past in bulk that I gave out to students. Shop around online. It’s a total motivator and a way to watch your progress. Some of them sync with a calorie counter so you can be sure and get enough protein. I look at it like a competition.
The coolest part is that I’m competing with MYSELF. I want to be the healthiest and best version of me that I can possibly be. I can’t be anyone else.
Are you ready? Start walking… I’m vibing on Nancy Sinatra’s “These boots are made for walking” now. I’m going to picture you out on the trail because walking is the best exercise for liver disease. I’m beyond proud of you for taking good care of your body. Watch us go.. xo Karen:)
PS Call your doctor before you start. .. I know you know that.