Weight-Loss Exercises for People With Chronic Pain

When you have chronic pain, it may feel like every day is filled with road blocks and that every movement is a frustrating chore. Lying in bed or sitting on the couch may feel like the only place your body gets any relief. But physical activity is a vital part of the healing process.

woman with back pain sitting in an office chair

If you suffer form chronic pain there are still ways to get a workout in. | iStock.com/ChesiireCat

In order to get rid of any unwanted pounds and mitigate chronic pain, you need to get moving. The first step in such a delicate transition is to first meet with a health professional who will take into account any of your physical limitations before approving an exercise routine. The following exercises are a great place to start. They’re gentle on your body and effective for encouraging blood flow and repair.

1. Walking or biking

Man walking in wooded area

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get moving and burn calories. | iStock.com

Walking, no matter how slow or assisted, is a healing and gentle form of exercise. It brings oxygen to your muscles to keep them healthy. Standing and walking helps reduce stiffness and pain while boosting your energy. If standing or walking for long periods of time is too much on your body or joints, bicycling on a seated stationary bike can also have a healing effect. The reciprocal peddling motion is relaxing and keeps your joints moving and lubricated. Light aerobic exercise like walking and biking will help rebuild your stamina and can assist with weight loss.   

2. Swimming

woman pushing off the wall in a pool

Swimming is great on the joints. | iStock.com

The water is one of the best places to be if you have chronic pain. When your body is in the water it defies gravity, leaving you feeling weightless. You may find yourself practically free of the chronic pain that has become part of your daily life. Swimming and water-based exercises are especially great for people who have musculoskeletal issues or joint disease as the impact of walking can exacerbate an underlying problem. Swimming won’t jolt your joints or muscles like other, more vigorous exercises will.

3. Strength training

Fit couple lifting heavy kettles

Light strength training will give your muscles a good stretch and workout. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

Another way to relieve chronic pain and jump-start your weight loss journey is to incorporate strength training into your day. Start with very light weights — 1- to 3-pound dumbbells will work — and focus on making every movement slow and smooth. Studies have even shown that strength training can help treat depression just as well as some medications.

You can work through a strength training regime you’ve followed before, but focus on slow, controlled movements. You may also have to shorten the range of motion if you feel pain. For example, with the bicep curl you don’t have to fully straighten your arm or fully bend your elbow if you feel discomfort. Push yourself with caution and know your limits.

4. Yoga

young man lying in Yoga pose

Yoga will relax your mind and give your muscles a great stretch. | iStock.com

Start with bed-based poses like nesting pose, where you lie on your side with your legs bent and drawn in toward your stomach. Rest your head on a pillow and put a pillow between your knees. Get comfortable and then listen to the natural rhythm of your breath, carefully observing the inhale and exhale. You can sleep or nap in this position. Another restorative position is bound angle pose. From a seated position on the bed or floor, bring your feet together so your knees stick out to the sides making a diamond shape. Put pillows under each knee and slowly lie on your back, making sure your body is properly supported with pillows. Move slowly and be gentle with your body. When you’re in the position, you’ll experience a supported, but deep stretch in your knees, legs, and hips.

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