How Chronic Illness is Associated with Physical Activity
If you or someone you love is living with heart disease, cancer, or another chronic condition, you know it can eat up your time and energy. So, when you’re managing symptoms and coordinating doctor’s appointments, it’s understandable if a morning jog isn’t on your priority list.
At Achievement, we aim to help you set exercise goals that make sense. That means understanding more about physical activity levels in those with at least one chronic disease.
We crunched data from more than 100,000 Achievers, including individuals with one or more chronic conditions. After controlling for age, sex, education level, and race, our scientists found that, for each additional chronic condition reported, a person took about 250 fewer steps per day. (The overall average was just over 6,700 steps per day.)
This decline nearly doubled for those with co-existing cardiac and metabolic chronic conditions — two or more ongoing, concurrent illnesses that affect critical body functions such as hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis or COPD and diabetes. Each additional reported co-existing condition was associated with taking nearly 500 fewer steps a day.
We know this may sound disheartening. But if you or a loved one are living with chronic illness, you’re not alone. Though increasing your activity level may be challenging, it’s worthwhile. The benefits of exercise for those living with chronic conditions can include better disease management and a decrease in some symptoms.
Our tips: Start slow, set gradual goals, and stay motivated by picking an activity that you enjoy. If you find peace in nature, take a 20-minute walk in a local park. If social connection is important, sign up for a dance or tai chi class. Schedule time for exercise and tell family or caregivers about your plan. And be ready to readjust if needed. (Always consult with your physician before implementing or changing any exercise regimen.)
No matter what first — or next — step you decide to take, we hope you track it with Achievement! We’ll be here, cheering you along your health journey.