Please note: This post includes affiliate links from which I may make a commission from purchases at no extra cost to you. Our affiliate relationships help fund our work on The Zebra Pit. Thank you!
The benefits of movement on hypermobility are many, including decreased pain, greater stability in our joints and our movements, improved posture, a reduction in dislocations and so much more. It’s not always easy to do when you’re in pain, but once you get started and experience the results, you realize you need to do whatever it takes to keep going. Here are some of the tools I’ve used to help me to learn how to exercise with hypermobility and a few things that help me keep my practice going.
If you’ll bear with me a moment before we get started on the topic at hand, I want to put out one more plea to endorse me in the WEGO Health Awards this year. I’ve been nominated for 3; Best in Show: Blog, Best in Show: Facebook, and a Lifetime Achievement Award! I’m still reeling from all the attention and I couldn’t be more honored, but you know I hate shameless self-promotion (a big reason it took so long for The Zebra Pit to find success). Still, I have to do it.
Given what the free publicity and rewards could do for the Zebra Pit, winning one of these awards could go a long way to supporting my mission to reach all spoonies with EDS, ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia and MCAS (among others). So yes, I am begging. Please take the time to endorse us! I know the system can be challenging, but if you hang in there to get your endorsements completed, it could really help the site take off. Won’t you please endorse me and share my nomination on your social media? It will not only help me win, but it could also help us to reach other people who need our support. Thank you!
While you’re there don’t forget to endorse the other patient advocates who have touched your life!
Starting A New Movement Program
When you first start into practicing movement as a person with EDS or HSD, it’s important to prepare the body for movement, especially if pain and other symptoms has kept you from engaging in exercise. There are a few programs that work out well for us, but this book takes the cake by far, ‘Hypermobility Without Tears’ by Jeannie Di Bon. This book, which we reviewed after its release just last year, and quickly became #2 on our best seller’s list, will help you reconnect with your body, overcome some of your fears about exercise and help you prepare your body for undertaking a fitness program pain-free by utilizing Di Bon’s Integrated Movement Method. It will even get you well on your way to strengthening some of the most problematic areas for zebras utilizing modified pilates floor exercises. Hypermobility Without Tears: Moving Pain-Free with Hypermobility and EDS is available on Amazon in Paperback or Kindle versions. Big bonus, it’s priced right for even the smallest of budgets.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, another great resource offered by Jeannie is The Zebra Club, a comprehensive online program for people with hypermobility and chronic pain. Not sure it’s right for you? She has a 7 day free trial so you can try it before you decide to make an investment.
Another great book designed specifically to help with the challenges hypermobility presents is physical therapist Kevin Muldowney’s book, Living Life to the Fullest with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This book offers a comprehensive movement program, along with other tips and advice for the person with hypermobility. The biggest drawback to this book, unfortunately, is the hefty price tag.
Enjoying our post? Get every post delivered to your inbox:
Of course you don’t have to buy anything to get started, but it can certainly help your fitness program off the ground hassle-free. This guide from The Zebra Pit provides plenty of great tips and good resources to get educated about movement for EDS and HSD without costing a penny: EDS, Hypermobility and Exercise.
We also have a fairly extensive library on movement for spoonies, including a library of exercise tutorials you can learn from in our Movement & Therapies section.
Then of course, there’s finding a great physical therapist or coach that’s knowledgeable about EDS and hypermobility. There are even some LMT’s listed in the Medical Professionals Directory provided by the Ehlers-Danlos Society. They’re becoming easier to find, especially at teaching hospitals. If you have a PT or fitness instructor who lacks the knowledge, but is willing to learn, Jeannie DiBon’s website offers professional education, as well.
Working with a professional has many benefits, including the benefit of modifying exercise for your particular needs to helping you develop a full movement program you can undertake at home or in a facility. Just make sure they understand all of the challenges of a hypermobile body, from the need to pace and adapt our routines for flares, dysautonomia, post exertional malaise along with our common mechanical issues.
Where to Exercise
Undertaking a movement program at home is probably the easiest way for many people with EDS and HSD. After all, many of us don’t want to complicate our comorbid conditions and poor immunity with exposure to allergens, chemicals, bacteria and viruses that enjoy the often damp, crowded atmosphere of gyms and fitness centers. If that’s not enough, worries about judgments from healthy people and their well-meaning, but often hurtful advice often keeps us from participating in these places.
For me, working out from home is great. I don’t need a way to get to my workout place, I know exactly where everything is and frankly, if I need help developing new exercises, I’d do much better to work with my EDS knowledgeable physical therapist at the hospital rather than someone who’s never even heard of medical zebras, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and other malignant forms of hypermobility.
When starting out on an exercise program after years of inactivity, we rarely need to start out with more than our own body weight, but there are some things that can make us more comfortable.
For one, if you’re over 40 and/or have already sustained a lot of joint damage, you may already realize working on the ground on a mat isn’t for you. You want a raised platform to work on. Your bed can be a great place to exercise, provided it’s firm enough. But if you’re a zebra who prefers a super soft bed, I highly recommend getting a massage table to do your movement and therapy on.
Even though I have a firm bed, I still use my massage table. Why? Because it’s more sanitary and even firmer, but still very comfortable. There’s also something to be said for “setting the stage,” which can help us to focus solely on the task at hand. Setting aside time and space to move, for me, seems to aid in further relaxation benefits of movement. It’s also a great way for my husband and I to do myofascial therapy on each other without breaking our backs!
This 84 inch Uenjoy Massage Table is a great option to accomplish both and has the same features as the one I use at home. Holding up to 500 lbs, it should provide the stability one desires for movement, while offering adjustable legs so you can make it the perfect height. Better yet, it’s affordable and you can fold it up and store it to get it out of the way.
Of course if you can still get down and back up off the floor with relative ease, there’s really no reason not to. In fact, it could help you to preserve this mobility by continuing to do your floor work, well on the floor. Make it a little more comfortable by getting a good mat.
I recommend a mat with plenty of cushion and ample width and length, just like this GoCloud 1″ thick mat that’s 71″x24″. It even comes in a variety of great colors and a price tag that’s not too hard on the wallet. Use it to do your floor work, to provide extra cushion for standing exercises, and to perform your mindfulness exercises.
Increasing Your Challenge
While you can do many exercises using your own body weight, there are certain exercises that are best done with dumbbells or resistance bands. When you’re working with weights, it’s necessary to start low (don’t be surprised if a 1 pound weight is where you start) and you should only move up by 1 pound at a time.
You want something that you can grip easily. That’s why I tend to prefer these Cap Dumbbell Neoprene Coated Weights. I bought the next size up as I needed it to keep the initial expenditure low.
When buying resistance bands, be sure to choose latex-free. These Azurelife resistance bands should be perfect for beginners and offer 3 levels of resistance you can work your way up to. They even come with an exercise guide you can use, just be sure that you’re following the rules of fitness for hypermobile bodies.
If you’ve been working out for a while and you’re looking for something a little different to add to your workouts and challenge yourself, check out this great Tai-Chi for Arthritis program developed by Dr. Lam. It’s modified so all movements are closed-circuit and can even be done sitting down! It’s also deceptively simple. I’ve done these work outs and they’ll definitely give you a great workout, help improve proprioception and balance, and learning the intricate moves involved in performing Tai Chi will even give your brain a bit of a workout. Based on Asian healing modalities and energy work, they’re also designed to help center and relax us. Once you’ve mastered these moves, you can move onto a second video with 6 more lessons.
At home cardio options
This is going to be a very short list. There are really only two forms of cardio I openly embrace for people with hypermobility, in part because many of us also have dysautonomia, but also because we really need to avoid doing exercise involving high impact. High impact can create jams and dislocations and can wear our joints down quickly. This really narrows things down to swimming or bike riding.
The recumbent bike I chose is this Exerpeutic 900xl because it has an adjustable extra wide seat, 300lb capacity and measures your pulse while you workout, which is very important for anyone with a heart condition, even us POTSies. It has a digital display, tracks your miles and offers a good range of resistance levels, all for a reasonable market price in comparison to other brands. I’ll admit these days mine is collecting more dust than miles due to my ongoing intracranial hypertension issues, but my hope is I’ll be back on it soon.
If you’re looking to save money on these items, consider new and refurbished from a second-hand sports store or marketplace. Every January, exercise equipment is bought with good new years resolution intentions and usually end up collecting dust for a year before giving up and selling it. You can get almost anything used and at a good price if you’re willing to do a little clean-up.
When it comes to workout wear, I’m a firm believer in putting your dollars elsewhere unless you simply don’t have anything that would be comfortable to work out in. You want your clothing to fit comfortably and bend with you without being too bulky or long, so it doesn’t get in the way of your workout or creates a safety issue. If you have a pair of sweatpants, yoga pants or leggings, you should be able to pair them with a T or muscle shirt and you’re good to go. We’re not doing this to look sporty, we’re doing it to be healthy.
Shoes are another matter. You want a pair of athletic shoes with well padded bottoms and decent arch support. They should help support us and keep our pain levels down. While I use orthotics for my morton’s neuroma that has definitely been a game changer for my foot pain levels, I still get the best, cushiest athletic shoes I can find. And my number one recommendation may surprise you. The day I found Dr. Scholl’s shoes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
The padding in them is divine and provides good arch support, while the genuine rubber soles helps absorb some of the shock of walking. They are quite slip-resistant, great for us clumsy types. Even better, they have half sizes and while I usually wear a wide shoe, their standard size fits me perfectly. I wore them everyday when I worked at the theater and experienced far less foot pain than I had even in my teens, and I’m approaching 50 (what!?). While Amazon doesn’t have the specific pair I purchased, these Dr. Scholl’s Women’s Inhale Sneakers look like they have the same great features.
Supplements for Energy & Hydration
While we’re talking about things that helps us workout, I can’t leave out supporting your body with the proper mix of electrolytes and giving our muscles the added energy they need for our workout routine.
When I first started out, I found d-ribose to be very helpful in giving me a little added oomph to get the job done. It’s a slightly sweet powder that tastes fine in water or just about any beverage. I think it’s especially good to use if you have or suspect ME/CFS, because energy is so very precious in a body that doesn’t properly regulate it’s energy resources. You can take it daily or about 30 minutes before working out.
Another simple supplement that can help provide you with more energy and is commonly used by athletes for energy enhancement is Taurine. While the energy drinks that contain taurine can be dangerous because of other ingredients that are included, a basic taurine supplement is a great thing to add to your protocol. To learn more about it, see our post on everything Taurine does to support energy and health. My husband and I both take it and enjoy the Now Supplements 1000mg double strength dose.
Equally important is maintaining a proper electrolyte balance, especially if you have any form of dysautonomia. My favorite electrolyte drink mix remains to be Oral Rehydration Salts by Trioral, since they use the WHO’s recipe, which is the best you can get without actually doing an IV. When drinking it, be sure it’s cold. This helps to restrict the blood vessels and increase blood volume further. Nuun tablets are also spoken of pretty highly in the community. I prefer to avoid the artificial flavorings and they’re more expensive, but they do seem to have what we need. Some people seem to think they’re more convenient and value the flavoring, so I’ve included a link to this product as well.
If you’re new to undertaking movement for improvement of your condition, take a look at our post on EDS, Hypermobility and Exercise. It offers a variety of tips and resources. If you’d prefer to get this same information in video format, then you might prefer Tips for Exercising with EDS. We also have tips for moving for POTS and OI!
Whew! We’ve finally reached the end of a long post! Thanks for hanging in there with me. Let’s celebrate by clicking like. Thank you!