PPS: Exercise - Harmful or Beneficial?
Peggy Whitcomb

From response in the Post-Polio-Med
Email List to THIS POST by Eddie Bollenbach. Reprinted with Permission

Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2008 20:13:22 0000
From: Margaret (Peggy) Whitcomb
Subject: Re: [PPM] Cardiovascular Stress Tests and PPS

Eddie said: "There is no evidence that exercising intelligently and with guidance with PPS can hurt you in any significant or permanent way and the consensus among researchers is that the right kind of exercise, without regard to a chemical stress test which is not exercise, may help you a lot. The best determinant of this is your reaction to exercise itself."

Bless you, Eddie, for your clarity and 'bluntness'. I experienced polio infection and paralysis over the left side of my body at age 6 months, with permanent 'apparent' damage only in my left leg and foot, recovering to lead a 'normal' life (how I worked at THAT) with 'only' a slightly shortened left leg (two surgeries on the foot).

At age 32 I began to experience the slowly increasing fatigue and weakness of PPS but by pushing myself continued life as usual until I collapsed at age 56 (those years are a blur). I got a PPS diagnosis at about age 57.

For several years afterward my research online said Do Not Exercise, and I didn't (though I had exercised and swam daily all my adult life with great pleasure (until a little over a year before I collapsed), and enjoyed perfect health right through bearing and raising seven healthy children, a 20-year career as a Social Worker and getting my private pilots license).

However, after several year's near-immobility ('only' housework, very little shopping and almost nonexistent social life), I knew my body was falling apart, my vascular and lymph system simply required SOME regular exercise. At that point I continually had pain and extreme weakness in my entire body; I could not really think very clearly or be very focused, and I was depressed and feeling out of control of my life.

I decided to take what I believed was a huge, huge risk and begin exercising again. Because I was so out of shape, I could do such a small amount daily I laughed at myself for calling it 'exercise' but I persisted (never to the point of fatigue, ever). Within a few weeks I definitely began to feel better. I could not wait until I "felt" I had the energy to do the exercises (a very few, a couple of times a day); I had to just do them, and rest afterwards.

It was a struggle. Now, several years after beginning those exercises, increasing them very slowly, I do quite a lot, two or three times a day. NOW, I am unbelievably stronger overall and have much more energy (still commited to pacing and short rest periods), which I never in my wildest dreams expected.

Nowadays I'm living in an area where there is a swimming pool accessible to me and once I get settled in this new place, believe me I'll start going to the pool again, taking it slowly, listening to my body. But I have disc overed I have so much health and strength in this body still, at age 68, that still needs (for decent health) what all bodies need --- sensible nourishment and regular exercise. Also, I once again enjoy perfect health.

When making that scary commitment to exercise I decided to also do something about the 50 pounds I'd gained since the collapse. By eating a high protein diet which includes fresh vegs and fruit, nuts and berries, and cutting out all products that contain refined flour and sugar, I was never hungry and the weight came off SLOWLY but steadily.

To do all this required every bit of the skills and commitment that had seen me through my life after the polio infection.

I've carried still some residual fears about exercising, though increasingly online I'm finding that PPS experts are very clearly recommending it. So your email today, Eddie, blunt as it needed to be, is very welcome.

Peggy Whitcomb

Editor's note: Peggy also wrote something similar in the Winter 2008 issue of Post-Polio Health.

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