Mast Cell Disease & Exercise: Dr. Afrin Says “Just Do It”

Should we consider exercise as important as our other mast cell medicines and therapies?

Dr. Afrin thinks so.

Before mast cell disease sent my health into a tailspin a few years ago, I was fit and really loved working out. I practiced yoga and martial arts. I swam and lifted weights. I hiked and walked for miles with my trusty pups. We live with Yellowstone as our backyard so we were all very active and outdoorsy, up until a few years ago when my health took a nosedive.

My favorite activities suddenly triggered hours or days of pain and suffering, well beyond just normal aging. Thanks to MCAS I’ve lost much of my fitness and even when I am feeling well enough to try to work out, I am triggered within a short time. Even a short walk around the block induces swelling, painful joints or a mucus attack now.

Still, I was reminded yet again how important it is to exercise as I was reading the rest of Dr. Afrin’s book I’m reviewing right here, Never Bet Against Occam.

Here’s what Dr. Afrin has to say about mast cell patients and exercise:

In spite of the substantial fatigue and malaise many MCAS patients experience and in spite of their many physical sensitivities (e.g., heat, cold, ultraviolet radiation, exertion, etc.) and antigenic sensitivities (e.g., pollen, perfumes, etc.), MCAS patients should be strongly encouraged to regularly exercise  — but only to the usual individual limit of tolerance each patient has likely learned from experience as, again, exertion clearly can trigger a flare of mast cell activation in some patients.

At the same time, although the mechanism likely is complex and remains quite unclear, exercise can help many patients with chronic inflammatory diseases improve both subjectively and objectively, acutely and chronically. Brief (15-30 minute) periods of exercise of mild-to-moderate intensity may be more helpful, at least subjectively, than longer periods and high intensity of exercise.

For those of us with chronic inflammation and pain caused by MCAS, exercise could substantially and positively impact our quality of life.

I have tried several times in the last few months to get into a daily routine but I haven’t been able to yet. My sweet husband even set up a home gym for me so I could work out in my “safe bubble” but it’s hard to get motivated to use it with any regularity when I’m so sick off and on all the time.

Monumental effort is required here and I barely have enough to fill a donkey cart these days but Dr. Afrin’s words encouraged me to “just do it” so I wanted to share them in case you need some encouragement, too.

Good luck and remember, we’re in this mast cell craziness together!

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