Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is a diagnosis that can affect every aspect of your day-to-day life. Chronic fatigue and symptoms that get worse when you change positions can make exercising and staying fit seem impossible. In fact, exercise intolerance is one of the defining symptoms of POTS. Unfortunately, slacking in physical fitness can make POTS symptoms worsen over time. So how do you combat this dilemma? While you should always contact your doctor before starting a new fitness regime, especially if you have an underlying medical condition, these tips may help you navigate staying fit when you have POTS.
While it’s always important to start slow and give yourself grace when you’re starting a new fitness program, this is doubly true when it comes to working out with POTS. It takes time for your body to build up stamina, especially if you’ve spent years avoiding exercise because it’s so difficult with your condition. Remember that exercise has been shown to help people with POTS live happier, healthier lives.
Have a Goal
It can be helpful to have a goal in mind. Maybe your goal is as simple as being able to make it through the grocery store without feeling tired, or maybe it’s the ability to get through a weekend at Disney with your kids. Whatever your dream, keep visions of it on your desktop at work and hanging up in your bedroom. Knowing what you’re working towards can give you the gumption to keep at it day after day, even when the going gets tough.
Practice Seated Exercises
Because POTS makes it hard to stand, exercises that involve a lot of standing are hard to start with—though it may be possible to work up to them. Instead, try starting with exercises you can do while seated. For example, a recumbent bike can help you increase your stamina and cardiac fitness while you’re still sitting down. Check out these suggestions for the best recumbent bikes if that seems like a good way to start. Other options include seated yoga or weight training to begin building the muscles that you need to eventually be able to do other exercises.
Weight training may be an especially effective tool for managing your POTS symptoms. Increasing your muscle tone can help with your blood flow and circulation. Increasing blood flow and circulation, in turn, is key to managing POTS. Pilates has been shown to be helpful in managing POTs as it focuses on building core strength.
Swimming can be a great way to exercise while inducing few POTS symptoms. While swimming, your body is mostly horizontal, which can keep many POTS symptoms at bay. Meanwhile, because swimming is a whole-body exercise, it’s a great way to build cardiac strength and stamina, which may help you work your way from a recumbent bike to an upright bike and from an upright bike to short walks.
Increasing your ability to be upright for short periods of time can lead you to feel more in control and happy with your POTS lifestyle.
One of the biggest contributing factors to POTS symptoms getting worse is dehydration. Drinking lots of water and increasing your sodium intake are both key to managing your POTS. If you are trying to work exercise into your daily regimen, this counts double.
Have Realistic Expectations
Pushing yourself too hard when you have POTS can do more harm than good. Chronic fatigue is a common side effect of POTS, and if you try to push yourself into upright exercise too quickly, for example, or try to go too fast, you may end up spending days out of commission. Instead, focus on brief recumbent exercises regularly, and build up to being able to do longer, more varied exercises over time.
Keep in mind that competitive sports, especially ones that involve a lot of walking or running, may not be realistic for your future. However, some POTS patients have been able to add things like jogging into their exercise regimen after building up to it. Consistency is key when managing POTS.
POTS is a hard condition to live with. However, studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce POTS symptoms and even lead people to live full, complete lives. While you may never be a pro football player while living with POTS, hard work and dedication can allow you to live a full, complete life doing activities you enjoy.