Keeping Fit in the Winter with a Chronic Condition - Elegantly Dressed and Stylish
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Keeping Fit in the Winter with a Chronic Condition

Happy Friday ladies!

February already! wow. Can anyone else completely wipe January off the calendar and be good with that? My favorite season is Fall, cool air, beauty in the trees and nature. Winter, a stark contrast, with bare trees, cold weather and an instinct to stay inside, can make it difficult for one’s state of mind and body.  Keeping fit can be a challenge, for some, in the Winter months, but also a necessity for those with a chronic condition.


I have always been an active person. When i was 18 I got my first membership to a gym, and I was so excited to begin lifting weights. Prior to 18, I played basketball, softball, and got my lifeguarding certificate for swimming. I loved playing football and hockey with my brother and his friends. Fast forward, to later in life. I met my hubby in a rock climibing class, and we did the MS ride to bike ride for charity, after enjoying biking on trails and the street.

I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndome  in 2008. Hard to beleive it has been 10 years! I was lucky to take my puppies out to go to the bathroom by walking them to the end of the sidewalk. Pain can be very much a deterrant when it comes to exercise. Add grey and cold weather, and sometimes we want to hide under the covers and cuddle with our fur babies! However, we all know MOVEMENT is key! I had to get out of the mindset that MORE is better. In my 20s, I want to step classes and loved them.. I would do back to back classes, or use the treadmill/weights afterward. Before EDS, I Loved going to spin classes, as I would challenge myself and feel like I got an amazing workout.

Now, going on 50, ( in July) it has been important for me to continue to keep fit, but find a routine that I could maintain, and enjoy, at the same time choose the right exercises, to strengthen muscles and stabilize joints. ( I have pelvic dislocation at times,) so strengthening the joints around my ligaments is imperative.

Here are some tips I have for keeping fit with a chronic condition;

  1. Be kind to yourself. You may not be able to do the same amount every day. If you are having a pain flare, do take care of yourself. Listen to your body.
  2. Do try and take a walk – getting outside will help improve your mood as well.
  3. Exercise, even minimal, will help you get better sleep.
  4. Walk with a partner. I know this is not inclusive for those with chronic pain, but having someone to walk with regularly can motivate you as well as keep your mind off pain.
  5. Try home videos. With so much streaming TV and Fit tv channels, set up a space in your house for you to exercise. It can be as simple as using a yoga mat.If you don’t have streaming channels, there are plenty of exercise videos you can purchase for your needs.I have been trying these Videos  for some gentle yoga.
  6. Use Therabands or Fitness  bands for strengthening.  I have THESE at home from Amazon,  and they are an inexpensive way to exercise.  I used to lift heavy weights when I didn’t have EDS symptoms. With this muscle condition, heavy lifting is not recommended. I use these RESISTANCE BANDS with handles for hip, hamstring, calf exercises, as well as for bicep, tricep, chest and shoulder exercises. . The idea is more resistance and strengthening for stability, less trigger points, muscular knots.
  7. If you can get to a pool, swim. Swimming is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for all over body conditioning, and because you are weightless, there is no stress on joints, muscles.. i am nearly pain free in the pool.  I swim at our development’s pool in the summer.
  8. Try pre-making meals or getting your significant other to help with this. I often make jasmine rice in my steam cooker and add chicken, vegetables for an easy meal. Standing for long periods is tough with hypermobility, so I suggest making more ahead of time, or using a crock pot for meals you can freeze is helpful.

Food; I eat healthy foods and prefer chicken and fish as proteins. I do believe in eating in moderation. I don’t deny myself foods I enjoy, but find if I eat healthy, I crave heathier foods. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy cookies or ice cream here and there. With pain, there is often fatigue, so I choose to eat well for energy and well being.

** Disclaimer- I am not a medical doctor. This post is discussing what I have been doing to help with chronic pain by excersise and healthy eating. Everyone is different. Please discuss anything you may be interested in with your doc. 😉

How do you keep fit with a chronic condition?

Have a good weekend!

Jess xo


  • Ginger Photog
    Posted at 03:56h, 10 February Reply

    This is a great post Jess! I don’t have any chronic conditions, other than migraines. I do have a herniated disc in my cervical neck region, and it keeps me from doing a lot of things that I might have otherwise done. I find that it gets particularly stirred up if I use my arms to much (like folding clothes, rinsing dishes at the sink to put in the dishwasher), so I just try to avoid those things as much as possible…LOL! Really, my husband is great and helps a lot with things. When my upper back gets flared up, I go get a medical massage several times, and it seems to put it back in check.

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:17h, 10 February Reply

      julie, thanks so much! Migraines can be very difficult to deal with. Neck pain travels down the shoulders..can travel down the arms.. i think it is great you get a deep massage. my hubby does some of the housework that is difficult for me and would hurt my muscles.. ie. scrubbing floors, baths etc. xx

  • Kristin McMillan
    Posted at 13:54h, 05 February Reply

    GREAT post, Jess, and I really appreciate it. It isn’t easy, is it, going from being a really active person to having to make some big adjustments because of health challenges. I used to be a distance runner and also lift weights a lot in addition to backpacking. Your point about listening to our bodies is so important, as they’re saying very different things now than they used to! Before I got sick, it was push, push, push to do more, faster, all the time. Now I need to really go gently and back off at the first sign of becoming fatigued. Using much lighter weights now helps me, and I love your idea of the resistance bands, so I’ll look into those. And yes, getting outdoors is so important, as it not only keeps us moving but gives us that much-needed connection with nature, which is healing in itself. Thanks again, Jess. Be well and be happy! xoxox

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 15:40h, 05 February Reply

      Thank you Kristin! wow, I didn’t know you were a distance runner. Yes, it certainly was difficult at first as hubby and i loved to bike and do other more active sports. But now, walking outside is good exercise and it helps mentally in the cold months. Yes, the bands are very good for resistance, do check them out. xx

  • Northwest Mountain Living
    Posted at 09:48h, 05 February Reply

    These are all great ideas! It can be so difficult to stay on a fitness track and even more so I imagine with health issues. You look beautiful! Cheryl

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:03h, 05 February Reply

      Thank you Cheryl. there are days that i have where it is tough, but I try to do at least the therabands. i look forward to walking outside in the Spring. We have a treadmill at home in the garage too. xx

  • Elle
    Posted at 22:10h, 04 February Reply

    I know you are in pain but I must say you look truly amazing. The way you look probably confuses people!!
    These are excellent tips. I will try the fitness bands that you recommend. I walk outside in the summer and spring months, but in the winter I use the treadmill for brisk walking, four times a week, for 45 minutes to an hour per session. I also stretch.
    I am hyper lax and your diagnosis has been suggested to me as a possible additional diagnosis. I have not gone for testing.
    This was very well written Jess, and helpful!

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 09:59h, 05 February Reply

      Thanks so much Elle. There are so many invisible illnesses, it is hard to know if someone is sick unless they outwardly show it. Glad you like the tips, the bands add just enough resistance and do help with stability. sounds like you have a very good routine. The hypermobility can be difficult, let me know if you do go for testing. xx jess

  • ivana split
    Posted at 11:29h, 04 February Reply

    I have a severe case of Chron disease, sometimes I literally I have to craw to the kitchen to get a glass of water…and yet only a few hours later, I might be perfectly able to do some exercising so I do it. Not every day is the same- I think that is important to remember when we have a chronic condition. There will be days when we truly won’t be able to exercise, but it is important to try to find out ways to make exercising & physical activity a part of our lives. I try to exercise when I can. Generally speaking it does make me feel better. I guess I’m fortunate in the sense that I actually like to work out so it doesn’t feel like a chore. I’m not a fan of gyms, though, I prefer to work out at home. I miss swimming, but here unfortunately swimming options are just too expensive. I do a lot of exercises for scoliosis because I have that too ( I think that counts as exercising too, most scoliosis related exercises are a mixture of yoga and Pilates)

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 12:09h, 04 February Reply

      Hello Ivana! I am sorry to hear about your Chron’s disease, it must be difficult. I understand about “good” and “bad” days and do go day by day. I also try and take advantage of the times I do feel better to do my best execising. I was always a believer in finding an exercise that I enjoy, that way it doesnt feel like exercise or a chore, as you said. Sounds like you are doing your best! I appreciate your comment. x

  • Laura || Walking in Memphis in High Heels
    Posted at 20:37h, 02 February Reply

    Keep moving was one of the best advice tips I’ve ever heard. I love the tips you’ve shared, and I love this personal touch and being able to talk about chronic illness.

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 12:07h, 04 February Reply

      Thank you Laura, yes, that is the key! I do enjoy trying different videos for Yoga and the bands are great too when I travel. Glad you liked the post! xx

  • Amy Christensen
    Posted at 19:20h, 02 February Reply

    Great tips, Jess. I love to walk and it gets harder when it is extremely cold. I have started doing some in home walking videos that also involves light weights. I have used the resistance bands and do like those also. My biggest struggle with SAD during the winter months is poor eating. Carb cravings are common, so I have to figure out how to make better choices. Thanks for sharing your insights. Have a great weekend. – Amy

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 12:06h, 04 February Reply

      Thank you Amy! Sounds like you are doing well, and are very insightful as to what you want to change. thats great! xx

  • Maureen
    Posted at 15:42h, 02 February Reply

    I agree with you on keeping healthy even during the cold, dreary months of Winter. It can get easy to just hide under the blanket but a nice walk or exercise helps not only with our body feeling better but also our psyche. If I can’t get to the gym, I just work out at home. With my son, home sometimes this task is hard to accomplish so we just run in circles around our kitchen island. It’s not enough to get my heart rate up but it’s enough to say I wasn’t a couch potato. I also cook for the week so that my hubby’s lunch box is prepped for the week. Happy Friday and hope you have a great weekend!

    Maureen |

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 12:05h, 04 February Reply

      Thanks Maureen for your input. I do more working out at home when the weather is cold, so I am looking forward to warmer temps to walk outside. Great that you prep meals for the week! Enjoy your day! xx

  • Rebecca
    Posted at 12:27h, 02 February Reply

    I am a pretty active person and, living in NYC, the best way of navigating is brisk walking. I also take body conditioning classes at the Y when I can. Having had 4 knee surgeries (including a total replacement and revision), I know how important it is to be active. However, I agree with your post today in that it is vital to listen to your body and do what feels right which can vary daily. Stretching and toning are so important as we get older.

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 12:04h, 04 February Reply

      Hi Rebecca! i too enjoy walking, and it would be brisk in this weather! i understand, a bit of a faster pace. Yes, I do think that we must stretch and tone with weights as osteoperosis and osteopenia can occur as we get older. thanks for your comment! xx

  • Jodie
    Posted at 10:06h, 02 February Reply

    This is such great thinking, Jess. I do think that just getting outside helps our mood too!!
    Have a wonderful weekend!!

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:32h, 02 February Reply

      Thank you Jodie. Yes, the very act of releasing endorphins helps our mood. i enjoy being outside to exercise but when the temps are too cold, I do my best inside. Enjoy your weekend too!

  • thisblondesshoppingbag
    Posted at 07:18h, 02 February Reply

    I was always a thin child but never really played sports. During both of my pregnancies I gained well over 60 pounds and I was miserable. After my second I joined the gym (18 years ago) and since then have worked out on average 5 days a week. My family is riddled with arthritis, my father has had both knees replaced, a shoulder, my sister had a hid replaced, my brother has shoulder problems, seriously it’s crazy – I’ve had lots of aches and pains over the years with bursitis and tendonitis. The one thing I keep hearing from every doctor I go to is to KEEP MOVING. It is honestly the best thing but we do have to listen to our aging bodies and adjust accordingly.
    Your advice is spot on and you are incredible shape Jess!

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:31h, 02 February Reply

      It sounds like you are doing well now, working out. I am sorry to hear your family has had a lot of issues with joints, and pain from arthritis. My dad had lots of issues-knees, back pain etc.. much was from a more sendentary lifestyle. It was tough, as he had Gianne Barre, which causes numbness. Proprioception was difficult, so it became tough for him to work out. I myself, enjoy walking and know that it helps my muscles and weights help with stability. Glad you enjoyed it and thank you Kellyamn! xx

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