Epilepsy,  Personal

How I Exercise While Living with Epilepsy | Plus What You Need to Know Before Hitting the Gym

This is a topic that many people have reached out to me in regards to and as someone who avidly takes part in exercise, I find it beneficial and very important to break it down to get the greatest information so anyone wanting to hit the gym, can go safely.

When I was first diagnosed with epilepsy, all of the negative emotions in the sky came raining down on me like a ton of bricks. Sadness, depression, frustration, loneliness, and even anger. I rarely left home. Devastated and wrapped in a blanket of “Why me?”

Let me let you in on a secret….Pity parties suck. They will eventually get boring. Trust me. I thank God for my spouse and my family who allowed me to have the time to “feel” and not simply bottle up the painful emotions that I felt following the diagnosis, but pulled me out and were determined to give me the strength to overcome.

I had to regain my ability to walk. Literally and emotionally. My husband and I began to walk each day. We decided that we would transform ourselves from the inside out. Physically, Emotionally, and spiritually. Eat better, think better and do our best to just live our lives better.

Over time, I felt optimism begin to sprout within me and my self-esteem rekindling. It wasn’t long before we made our way to the gym, and I fell in-love with fitness.

How does exercise help me?

  • Exercise gives me a boost of confidence.
  • Exercise strengthens my brain health, memory and overall health.
  • Exercise makes me feel much happier.
  • Exercise has helped me set new goals to strive for.
  • Exercise encourages me to eat and sleep much better.
  • Exercise has introduced me to many great friends.

Living with epilepsy, it’s important to take precautions when going to the gym, and using equipment in order to avoid injury, should a seizure occur. It’s key to always keep in mind seizures are unpredictable and we must take precaution when stepping into the gym.

Where to begin before a workout

  • Hydrate with water.
  • Stretch. Loosen up all limbs of your body well, to prepare for your workout to avoid muscle strain or cramping.
  • Ideally, fuel up 1-2 hours before your workout.
  • Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast (without the fatty cream cheese), low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
  • If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as a banana or berries.

During the workout

  • Keep your body hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Don’t overexert yourself – know your limits.
  • Don’t continue exercising if you feel faint, lightheaded, nauseous or generally unwell.
  • Make sure your coach and possibly teammates know what to do if you have a seizure.
  • If involved in solo exercise, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or pendant, so people can easily identify if you have epilepsy.
  • Let family or friends know your walking, jogging or exercise route before you leave, and how long you will be out.
  • Consider carrying a mobile phone with an ICE (in case of emergency) telephone number listed.Always take your medication as prescribed.

Exercise-related epilepsy triggers

Seizures that happen during or after exercise may be due to triggers such as:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration (and electrolyte loss)
  • Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels)

Suggestions to help you avoid these triggers include:

  • Make sure you take your medication as prescribed.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
  • Eat well before exercise and take a light snack or fruit if you need something immediately beforehand.
  • Don’t push yourself to the point of physical exhaustion. (Unless your seizures are well-managed)
  • If you are feeling very hot and tired, slow down or stop.
  • Make sure you have at least two rest days every week.
  • Make sure your diet is nutritionally adequate.
  • Get plenty of rest and good quality sleep.
  • Limit or abstain from alcohol.

After the workout:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
  • Stretch it out. Loosen your body to avoid muscle cramping and strain.
  • Cool your body temperature down with a nice cool shower.
  • Refuel with tasty healthy snacks or meals such as: Chocolate milk, a turkey sandwich, or cottage cheese with chickpeas.

Sure. My body has flaws. We all have flaws. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to treat it with the utmost care. I love life regardless of the scratches and dents within my life. It will never be perfect but I intend on living the most imperfectly happy, healthy life that I can.

And I hope given the information laid out, that this can help you too!

Remember, vigorous physical activity isn’t for everyone. Listen to your body and before making any substantial changes in lifestyle or diet, always consult your doctor.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Tiffany Kairos

I am a happily-ever-after wife, an epilepsy diagnosee, advocate for epilepsy awareness (The Epilepsy Network), life lover & Christ inspired! Life is a journey and I'm loving every moment of it. Even the bumps in the road!

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