Tag Archives: exercising with McArdle’s Disease

Warmup Exercises Can Dramatically Reduce the Chances of Injury from McArdle’s Disease
?

DISCLAIMER: This is not professional medical advice, but simply anecdotal information shared by an individual with McArdle’s disease.  Seek guidance from your informed physician before beginning an exercise regimen if you have McArdle’s disease.

If you have McArdle’s disease, whether you were diagnosed recently or years ago chances are you have known for a long time that something was quite wrong with your muscles.  Perhaps as a result you’ve come to avoid exercise altogether or find yourself in a more sedentary lifestyle than you would like.  If so, you’re like me.

Ironic as it may seem, exercise itself may be in fact the most effective treatment I’ve encountered for coping with McArdle’s disease.  The physiological responses of the body to exercise, which include:

  • Release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth of bone, muscle and connective tissue
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved natural regulation of blood glucose levels
…seem to make “blasting” a lot less likely (“blasting” being the painful cramping that can also cause elevated blood protein levels, as well as a high fever and a day in bed in agony.)  It stands to reason that the body’s response to exercise works to “stave off” or partially mitigate the circumstances from which injury-causing failure episodes arise.
Consider the following.  Improved muscular and connective tissue strength equip the body with a higher “taxing” threshold for brief anaerobic motions such as squatting, bending over, lifting things from the car or to a shelf, or even carrying laundry.  Improved circulation equips muscle cells individually with more ready access to blood-borne substrates such as fatty acids and blood sugar.  Blood sugar levels, of course, through exercise and prudent dietary choices are less likely to experience devastating peaks and valleys.  (People with McArdle’s disease are probably very attuned to their blood sugar levels, as only brief moderate exercise allows them to experience exactly how much or how little energy their muscles have access to at the cellular level.)
Speaking for myself, I know that if I get up from my desk and go sprint around the yard with my dog, I’m likely to feel it and have to stop lest I incur a muscle injury.  However, there are days when I have extended endurance and feel markedly stronger which are preceded by periods of diligent, careful exercise involving extended warm-up periods. ?
?
Why Warmup is So Important for People with McArdle’s Disease
?
Once I’m warmed up, I’m able to jog longer or run up and down the basketball court a little easier, or climb more stairs, or move from one airport terminal to another and keep up with my companions.  I can do this without the fear that failure – which, if the limits are pushed, is ALWAYS inevitable – will result in a painful “blasting” episode.  As such, this exercise I’m able to experience without anxiety about falling down or cramping is likely as good for my body as it is for any normal person.  Walking, jogging, hiking, biking – all in moderation, using common sense, with careful warmup – I can pull them off.

Relevant links:

Warmup Exercises Can Dramatically Reduce Your Chances of Injury from McArdle’s Disease
 

DISCLAIMER: This is not professional medical advice, but simply anecdotal information shared by an individual with McArdle’s disease.  Seek guidance from your informed physician before beginning an exercise regiment if you have McArdle’s disease.

If you have McArdle’s disease, whether you were diagnosed recently or years ago chances are you have known for a long time that something was quite wrong with your muscles.  Perhaps as a result you’ve come to avoid exercise altogether or find yourself in a more sedentary lifestyle than you would like.

Ironic as it may seem, exercise itself may be in fact the most effective treatment I’ve encountered for coping with McArdle’s disease.  The physiological responses of the body to exercise, which include:

  • Release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth of bone, muscle and connective tissue
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved natural regulation of blood glucose levels
…seem to make “blasting” a lot less likely (“blasting” being the painful cramping that can also cause elevated blood protein levels, as well as a high fever and a day in bed in agony.)  It stands to reason that the body’s response to exercise works to “stave off” or partially mitigate the circumstances from which injury-causing failure episodes arise.
Consider the following.  Improved muscular and connective tissue strength equip the body with a higher “taxing” threshold for brief anaerobic motions such as squatting, bending over, lifting things from the car or to a shelf, or even carrying laundry.  Improved circulation equips muscle cells individually with more ready access to blood-borne substrates such as fatty acids and blood sugar.  Blood sugar levels, of course, through exercise and prudent dietary choices are less likely to experience devastating peaks and valleys.  (People with McArdle’s disease are probably very attuned to their blood sugar levels, as only brief moderate exercise allows them to experience exactly how much or how little energy their muscles have access to at the cellular level.)
Speaking for myself, I know that if I get up from my desk and go sprint around the yard with my dog, I’m likely to feel it and have to stop lest I incur a muscle injury.  However, there are days when I have extended endurance and feel markedly stronger which are preceded by periods of diligent, careful exercise involving extended warm-up periods.  
 
Why Warmup is So Important for People with McArdle’s Disease
 
Once I’m warmed up, I’m able to jog longer or run up and down the basketball court a little easier, or climb more stairs, or move from one airport terminal to another and keep up with my companions.  I can do this without the fear that failure – which, if the limits are pushed, is ALWAYS inevitable – will result in a painful “blasting” episode.  As such, this exercise I’m able to experience without anxiety about falling down or cramping is likely as good for my body as it is for any normal person.  Walking, jogging, hiking, biking – all in moderation, using common sense, with careful warmup – I can pull them off.

Sources:

As of 2008, the only realistic treatment for McArdle’s Disease is – somewhat ironically – exercise.

The physical (and emotional) discomfort associated with failure episodes characteristic of McArdle’s Disease often pushes people with the disease towards a sedentary life style.  If you consume sugary snacks or beverages as a way to try to up your blood sugar to power through episodes, you probably have it worse because the body ultimately outsmarts itself and interprets those snacks as “break time” and shuts your energy-creating enzymes down essentially, making you even more tired (this is not pseudo-science, but it IS an idiosyncratic characterization…there’s a difference.)

The reason sedentary people with McArdle’s Disease have so much discomfort exercising is the same reason any normal sedentary person does.  Their body has adjusted to just sitting around, and not having demands placed on it.  When you get up and push your body beyond the limits of what it is chemically prepared and equipped to do, you will feel initial resistance.  This is the same for all people, regardless of whether or not they have McArdle’s….only, with those of us who have the disease, this threshold is reached much quicker.

The way to effectively manage the disease is with diligence and patience and caution and perseverance.  There is in fact plenty of empirical data supporting the notion of a “second wind” phenomenon that people with McArdle’s disease experience following very careful, low-impact periods of warm-up exercise such as walking on reasonably flat ground for sustained periods of time.  Such folks are by no means “over” the symptoms, but they are able to walk almost indefinitely without experiencing failure symptoms.  It is in this “golden” period, following the warm up, that individuals with McArdle’s Disease are enjoying the normal benefits of exercise.

The secondary benefit of this is that, to some degree, their large muscle groups are now behaving somewhat like a normal person’s.  Blood circulation increases, the heart rate is up, and energy metabolism is occuring at a fast enough rate to sustain some physical activity.  It is in this “golden” period that an individual with McArdle’s disease MAY, depending upon their physical state of conditioning, be able to:

  • Play sand volleyball or moderately-paced basketball or soccer
  • Dance
  • Perform outdoor labor
  • Ride a bike up moderate or short inclines
  • Hike up and down reasonably large hills without failure
  • Swim (safely)
  • Paddle a canoe or kayak
  • Possibly even jog

It all depends on the individual.  Just like every other physical trait like hair (straight, or curly?), skin color (light or dark?), or height, how your body metabolizes energy and oxygen and how it reacts chemically to exercise is really inherently genetic and different from person to person.  So, know your limits, but by all means to carefully and diligently push your limits because this is how anyone – McArdle’s Disease or not – makes gains.

Keeping your body healthy is a little trickier with McArdle’s Disease, but the patience you are forced to employ in order to get exercise is something you will benefit from.  That’s more or less universal for all people with and without the disease.

Best of luck!