POTS and Exercise part 2

April 26, 2018

 

Last week I presented evidence on how exercise is an essential part of the treatment of POTS but that exercise definitely isn't a cure for POTS. You can read part 1 of this 2-part "Exercise and POTS" series here. Today I'm going to share with you what kinds of exercise I personally do to this very day. 

 

I personally do a self-modified version of Dr. Levine's exercise protocol which includes "cardio" (recumbent bike) exercises on one day and strength exercises the next. Dr. Levine's POTS exercise protocol involves working out every week day (one day cardio the next day strength and so on) with weekends free.

 

I also do a lot of yoga (I use "Yoga with Adriene's" videos), stretching, and foam rolling which I won't get into today (mostly because there's not much to get into). 

 

I often get asked what exercises I do and why. The goal with POTS is to focus on strengthening your core and legs to prevent blood pooling. I do this with various calf raises, leg raises, and ab strengthening exercises. I did this when I was bedridden and it's what helped me no longer be bedridden. As I mentioned in part 1 of my "Exercise and POTS" series, deconditioning doesn't cause POTS and therefore exercise doesn't cure POTS.

 

However, by the time someone with POTS gets on the right treatment, their bodies are usually quite deconditioned which exasperates the POTS symptoms.

 

If I don't do leg raises daily I will notice an increase in lightheadedness and blood pooling. If I don't do more exercises (like recumbent bike, ab exercises, etc.) for a week then I will notice an increase in fatigue and brain fog as well.

 

I'm going to share pictures of the exercises I do on my "strength days" of Dr. Levine's POTS protocol, and at the end, I will share the exercises I did during my months at cardiac rehab (that I did when I was housebound and mostly bedridden in 2014-2015).

 

Some tips:
-ALWAYS do less than what you think you can handle at first. It's better to slowly ease into an exercise with LOTS of caution when you have POTS then to overdo it and end up in a flare. I always progress very slowly!! If you read part 1 of this "Exercise and POTS" series, you'll remember that the first time I "exercised" it involved me sitting up for 1 minute a day and sucking in my belly button 5 times. Don't resent your small beginnings because it's THOSE steps in the right direction that your future self will thank you for! 

-On flare days, keep moving a little bit so you don't get deconditioned but don't do as much as you usually would.

-Compression tights and socks help me a lot when exercising. 

-Biofeedback helps me a TON with recovery time after exercising.

-Mullein tea also helps me with shortness of breath post-workout when needed.

-Make sure you're hydrating- especially with electrolyte drinks! 

-Support your neck and make sure to do exercises that don't hurt your pre-existing conditions.

 

Exercises Done Lying Down

 

1. Side Leg Raises

 

 

Image Source: Cloyne Fitness

 

2. Supine Leg Raises with a Resistance Band

 Image Source: Women's Health Magazine

 

3. Inner Thigh Leg Raises

 

The bent leg stays put while the straight leg goes up and down like the previous leg raise exercises. 

 Image Source: Popsugar.

 

4. Clamshell Leg Raises

 

Source: Women's Health Magazine

 

5. You can also use a resistance band to increase the intensity of #4.

 

Image Source: "Redefining Strength" 

 

6. "Fire hydrant" Leg Raises

 

I originally did the first step of this exercise for years but my physiotherapist recently recommended that I extend my leg back afterward as well (as pictured). She recommended this to help my hip pain associated with my muscle atrophy in my right leg.

 

 Image Source: Women's Health Magazine

 

7. Donkey Kicks

 

Make sure your you don't let your back collapse during this one! Don't compromise your form, even if that means you can't lift your leg back very far.

 Image source: Popusugar

 

8. Wall Exercises

 

I personally exercises #1, #3, and #5 below. #1 works as an alternative to squats. #3 I do but I make sure I have one hand behind my neck for support. When you have POTS it's essential that you SLOWLY get up from any position like this. When you're lying down and your legs are up straight against the wall, most people with POTS feel optimal as they are receiving adequate blood flow to the head. However, if we immediately stand up then all the blood rushes from our head to pool in our legs and abdomen (where it usually does with POTS) and leaves us in a worse position than before we started. Lying down flat with our legs straight up against the wall, without doing any exercises, can be a great temporary relief from blood pooling. However, I always make sure to then lie flat for a couple minutes, then transfer to a sitting position, and then after a couple minutes finally stand up.

 

Image Source: Prevention.com

 

 9. Alternating Superwoman Leg Kicks

 

Image Source: Popsugar

 

10. Inner Thigh Leg Exercise

 

 Image Source: Shape.com

 

 

Exercises Done Sitting Down

 

11. Seated Calf Raises

 

Cardiac Rehab introduced me to this exercise and it's one of my favourites. I personally use one weight on each knee or one weigh on one knee and alternate back and forth.

 

 Image Source: Top.me

 

12. Chair Ab Exercise

 

Image source: Transform Fitspo

 

13. Seated Punches

 

Image source: Prevention.com

 

14. Seated Bicep Curls

 

 Image Source: ACE Fitness

 

15. Seated Hip Squeezes

 

I personally do this with a weight in between my legs instead of a pillow.

 

 Image Source: Prevention.com

 

16. Seated Tricep Curls

 

Image source: Spark People

 

17. Single-Leg Seated Leg Raises

 

 Image Source: Skimble

 

 

18. Extended Single-Leg Seated Raises

 

Exercises Done Standing

 

19.  Calf Raises

 

 Image Source: Top.me

 

20. Resistance Band Bicep Curls

 

Image Source: Popsugar

 

21. Countertop Leg Raises

 

 

Image Source: Woman's Day

 

22. Countertop Pushups

 

 Image Source: Woman's Day

 

Here are the strength exercises that I did through my cardiac rehab program. I did almost all of them sitting down when possible. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading! What kind of exercises have helped you? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below! 

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