This is yet another post in my recent series of posts how my cholinergic urticaria went from being very severe to tremendously better (basically gone now). If you have not yet read my previous posts, then I strongly urge you to read them first so you can know exactly how this has progressed:
- My brief history of hives
- What is visceral fat?
- and My Hypothesis of visceral fat making cholinergic urticaria worse
- How to lose visceral fat
- Use Diet to eliminate visceral fat
- High Calorie Foods to Watch
- My Joyce Chen Steamer Review (My secret cookware weapon to reduce calories)
- Low Calorie Snack Ideas–some snacks to help you curb your cravings without adding too many calories.
- High Sodium Diet–How I was eating way too much sodium, and you may be too.
- Low Sodium Diet Tips
- Summary on Diet
Note: please keep in mind that you should always talk to a doctor before changing your diet or exercise habits. These posts are only relating general information and experiences only.
Some people may not be able to safely exercise due to exercise induced anaphylaxis, severe cholinergic urticaria, exercise-induced urticaria, etc. Please use extreme caution and talk to a doctor before attempting anything mentioned here.
Why Do Cardio Exercise–Not Just To Lose Visceral Fat
Let me begin this article by just briefly saying that cardio exercise isn’t just beneficial to lose fat. It does that well too, but it also does so many things. Exercise releases endorphins (‘feely good chemicals’), strengthens your heart, improves your endurance, and a whole slew of other positive health factors.
In fact, cardio was something I hardly ever used to do when I had my brief flirtation with natural bodybuilding. I didn’t think it was important. Well, I now plan to do cardio for the rest of my life (so long as my health permits).
It is really important to your health to do it, and if I could only do one (strength training or cardio), I would probably choose cardio (and that’s a pretty big change in perspective on my part).
A massive pile of scientific studies have shown time and time again that exercise will help you live healthier (and typically much longer). Even if you eat a terrible diet, exercise will still be beneficial (although you should change your diet ASAP).
Which Cardio Exercise Methods Are Best? Especially For People With Cholinergic Urticaria?
Everyone is going to have a different opinion and preference for this (and if you want to share any tips on the forum, please do so). But I thought I’d share my own personal findings/preferences/experiences. Most of this is not only true for people with hives, but much of it applies to the average person as well. Also, let me say that any advice your doctor, personal trainer, or nutritionalist gives you should always be used above my own opinions and experiences. Also, for those with swelling/exercised induced anaphylaxis, you obviously want to have an epi-pen, an adult with you, and talk about this with your doctor to see if it is even possible for you based on your own illness.
Okay, here we go:
Cardio Exercise #1 Walking Outdoors
There is actually some debate whether or not walking should even be classified as cardio exercise. In my opinion, in shouldn’t. Walking can be a great way to gradually get into cardio exercise, but it is far less effective than true cardio exercise. What tends to happen is that people think walking will help them lose weight–and it will–but only up to a point. Once your body adapts, you will find yourself having to walk longer and longer to continue losing weight.
The only problem with this is that you can burn tons more calories doing cardio in far less time. So if you have 4 hours to walk every day, then it may work for you. Or, if you are just starting, then walking may help get your body ready for more rigorous exercise. But I think this is one of the least practical ways to lose weight, get in shape, or exercise with hives long-term.
Pros of Walking:
- It can let your body adjust to exercise if you were significantly overweight, obese, have other medical conditions, or just haven’t worked out in a while
- It can be easy on your body if you have some illness/heart problem, etc.
- It can be refreshing to see nature while walking outside on nice days
- It can be free (unless you buy shoes or something)
Cons of Walking:
- You will only see results (in most cases) for a short period of time. If you think you are getting good results walking, you will probably be amazed at what cardio can do.
- It can be bad for people with hives, because the weather is so unpredictable. One day it may be freezing, next week it may be 95 degrees. If it is a hot day, you may start itching before you even walk 5 steps.
- You may get eaten by a bear, robbed, raped, or endure horn honking, profanities, etc (depending on where you live and walk).
- Consider this: my wife works in a hospital as a nurse, and nurses walk back and forth for 12 hour shifts at a time 2-4 days per week (rarely sitting down). And guess what? The majority of nurses at my wife’s work are always complaining how they need to lose weight (and many of them are indeed very overweight). Your body is made to walk and walk and walk some more, and you won’t burn many calories or fatigue your body doing it–even for 12 hours a day…
- Only exercises the legs (mostly)
So there you have it. In my opinion, walking is about the worst thing you can do (unless you are a beginner or your doctor advises only this method). This is true for both healthy people and CU. Again, this is just my opinion, and I know some people love walking. This is NOT the method I used at all when I decided to attempt exercising.
Cardio Exercise # 2: Jogging/Running Outdoors
This is actually a fairly decent method of getting cardio exercise. Some people LOVE to run, and they are addicted to it. I have never liked running long distances or for long times myself. I am more of a sprinter/racer. But this is okay, and if you like running, then do what works for you.
But running (especially outdoors), to me, is very impractical on a regular basis, especially for people with Cholinergic Urticaria. Here’s some of the pros and cons:
Pros of Running/Jogging Outside:
- Running is a good method to burn calories
- Running can be enjoyable for those who like this type of cardio
- Running is typically free (unless you want to invest in shoes, stop watch, shorts, etc)
Cons of Running/Jogging Outside:
- It can be bad for people with hives, because the weather is so unpredictable. One day it may be freezing, next week it may be 95 degrees. If it is a hot day, you may start itching before you even run 5 steps. Also, it can make you unmotivated to work out if you have to continually miss exercise days due to weather.
- You may get eaten by a bear, robbed, raped, or endure horn honking, profanities, etc (depending on where you live and walk).
- Running is a little more aggressive on the joints, which can be a problem if you are prone to knee injuries, hip problems, etc.
- If you run in rocky/uneven areas outdoors, you may risk injury by spraining an ankle or something.
- Only exercises legs mostly
So if you love to run (and can actually do it without your hives bothering you), then more power to you. I just have never like running as a form of exercise myself. I also think that the weather issues and other factors make it a little less practical to do this safely and consistently. I you really like running and can do it safely, maybe you can do this when weather and circumstances permit, and supplement your cardio with another method on other days.
Cardio Exercise #3 Swimming
Swimming can be a great way to exercise if you have cholinergic urticaria, because the water will likely help keep your core body temperature down a little longer than other methods. You CAN still break out in hives while swimming though (and I speak from experience here). Even in cool water I have developed hives.
So I am all for swimming–but here is the problem–not everyone has a pool in their house/yard. If you have to visit a gym or local pool, those admission fees can begin to add up quickly too (especially if you are going to attempt a 4-6 day per week exercise routine). So swimming tends to be cost and time prohibitive, and not very practical for the average person. Here are some quick pros/cons:
Pros of Swimming:
- Can be fun
- keeps the body cooler longer (which may prolong hives attacks),
- is easy on the joints
- Can workout full body (legs, stomach, back, arms)
Cons of Swimming:
- Cost prohibitive/Impractical on a regular basis for most people. Also may pose time constraints if you have to travel to a local pool each time.
- Slight drowning hazard
- Must deal with the weather if outdoors, or deal with people (kids especially) if indoors at a public place (I hate people watching as I exercise or hitting me with those swim noodle things)
Cardio Exercise # 4 Treadmills
Using a treadmill can erase some of the “cons” about walking and running. Treadmills can be a great way to get in some cardio, but they certainly aren’t perfect. Again, my personal preference is that I hate any heavy running. But if you love running (but dislike some of the cons of running outside), then a treadmill may be your ticket. Here are some pros/cons:
Pros of Treadmills:
- Allow you to run or walk indoors on your time schedule. This eliminates issues like bad weather, getting robbed/raped/eaten by a bear
- Can be an effective way to get cardio/burn calories
- Some can fold under beds and/or take up minimal floor space
Cons of Treadmills:
- Tend to be expensive compared to other cardio machines (they usually start in the low hundreds and go up–check out Amazon’s prices).
- Still high impact on your joints/knees/hips
- Can be one of the more dangerous methods of electronic exercise (countless people have been flung from these things).
- Most use a motor, which means it will consume small amounts of electricity. Depending on your electric rate, you may end up spending a few extra bucks per month if you use it extensively.
So, in my opinion, treadmills are a good idea for those who love running, but see the impracticality of running outdoors on a regular basis. I actually have a treadmill, but I don’t use it (nor does my wife). I really don’t like them very much at all, but some people use them and enjoy them.
Cardio Exercise #5 Elliptical Machines
Now we’re getting somewhere! Elliptical machines are one of the more popular exercise machines. They offer low impact, upper and lower body motions, are a little more safer than treadmills, and can be used in the comfort of your own home. The only drawbacks is that they are also somewhat expensive, ranging from the low hundreds of dollars up to the high hundreds (Check Amazon.com’s prices on them in the online store).
While I have always thought the motion was somewhat awkward, my wife loves elliptical machines. We didn’t buy one, but if I hadn’t bought the exercise machine I have now, I would have bought an elliptical as my second choice.
Pros of an Elliptical Machine:
- Low impact/easier on the joints (especially when compared to running/treadmills)
- Take up a minimal amount of space
- Exercises both upper and lower body to burn more calories and give a more complete “burn.” This is great because when one body part (legs) become more fatigued, you can continue your workout but switch the emphasis to the arms.
- Many people (both men and women) tend to prefer these at health clubs and gyms
- Work in the comfort of your own home on your time schedule
Cons of an Elliptical Machine:
- Can be slightly more expensive than other cardio equipment
- I personally feel the motion is somewhat awkward and unnatural (although my wife doesn’t share my feelings on this one)
- Some use electricity, some do not. So there could be small added electrical charges for those that need juice.
Cardio Exercise #6 Exercise “Stationary” Bikes
This is what I have, and this is what I would recommend above all things. While elliptical machines are a close second, exercise bikes take the cake in my opinion. They take up the least amount of space, require no electricity, offer smooth and natural motion similar to cycling, are among the cheapest exercise machine you can buy, and allows for a full body workout (if you select the right kind). Here are some pros of an exercise bike:
Pros of an Exercise “Stationary” Bike:
Typically inexpensive (I bought mine for around $100 during the christmas deals–you can’t beat that). They are typically about $120-180 for a decent model.
You can use it on your own schedule
Don’t require any electricity
Easy on the joints
One of the safest exercise machines (tied with ellipticals)
Works upper and lower body for a more complete workout and more calories burned
Far more safer than riding a bike on an actual street (A young boy died this way when I was in middle school), and I almost kill a bike rider at least 1 time per year while driving (none yet though, thank goodness)
Cons of an Exercise Bike:
Seat can be uncomfortable on some models when riding for a long time, but this can usually be avoided by adding a pillow or buying extra padded seats.
The Best Type of Exercise Bike to Get
They make many types of exercise bikes (recumbent, upright, fan, etc.). When I bought our exercise bike online, I researched this extensively. I ended up going with a “fan cycle” bike. I would absolutely highly recommend you get the same style.
On the “fan cycle” type bikes, it has a much more natural motion to riding a bike. The harder your pedal, the harder it is to do so. Some other models don’t operate on this same principle, and offer the same resistance the whole time.
Also, and this is a big deal, the fan cycle bikes have the part where you can use your arms for the back and forth motion. This helps workout your upper body. This is a huge help, because if your legs start burning or becoming exhausted, you can use your arms for a while, and keep switching back and forth. This really gets your heart pumping! I do this and basically get blood pumping to all of my major upper body and lower body muscles (even my chest and shoulders), all by simply adjusting the muscles doing the effort.
Here is a picture similar to the model I bought below. Amazon sells fan bikes for around $120 (and often offer free shipping), so they are really inexpensive. My wife and I use ours pretty heavily, and it is holding up well so far.
Some other awesome benefits of the model I bought is that it keeps track of your calories burned, the distance traveled (in miles), the time you’ve been riding, etc. That’s really useful, and if you buy any type of machine you will want to make sure it has that.
Cardio Exercise # 7: Miscellaneous Exercise
There are various other miscellaneous ways you can get a decent cardio workout. These include everything from jump rope, various fitness machines, following aerobic videos (such as Tae-Bo), and more. All of these are fine as well, and you should choose whichever method you feel most comfortable doing. Again, I prefer an exercise bike, but there are many ways to achieve a good cardiovascular (cardio burning) exercise.
Conclusion: Cardio is Vital to Your Health
Aerobic “cardiovascular” exercise is vital to your long-term health. I have listed some of the major methods of getting in some cardio. My favorite method is a fan cycle bike, which I am really glad I purchased. My wife and I both love it, it was very inexpensive. Amazon typically has them for around $120 (and even offer free shipping in most cases). If this thing lasted even 2 years, that equates to only $5 per month for unlimited exercise in the comfort of your own home.
Stay tuned, I still have a lot more to tell of my own experience of attempting to exercise, what eventually happened, and how it all came together.
Read the Next Post: How I Exercised with Severe Cholinergic Urticaria