There are many reasons why people with foot drop might be hesitant to participate in fitness. This is a problem, because fitness is important for health and well-being. For people with foot drop it can be especially significant. Everything from muscle weakness to stability issues can create many challenges in day to day activities. Additionally, the conditions or injuries that lead to foot drop can take a toll on mental health. Developing a fitness plan that works for you can help in both areas. We talked to Julie Stone, a Fitness Instructor with All Bodies Community and a CMT Advocate, to get her take on why fitness is important and to get her advice for those uncertain about adding fitness into their routine. (Please be sure to consult with your doctor about any physical activity and diet changes you want to make.)
Q: Why is fitness important for someone with foot drop and how has fitness helped you?
A: Fitness may not cure your foot drop, but it can help to fight it. Exercise has been such a huge part of my life and I can see a major difference in my body + symptoms when I’m working out regularly. When I have the right balance of exercise, my pain symptoms are reduced, my restless leg syndrome is gone, and my energy levels are higher throughout the day. In addition, exercise can help give you a mental boost!
Q: People with foot drop sometimes deal with fatigue, which makes it difficult for them to get into a routine that will expend energy. What advice can you offer someone who is concerned about their energy levels?
A: Do what you can and always make sure to rest and nourish your body. The first couple weeks of exercise can be hard. I’m not going to lie, you will feel extra tired and sore, but on the other end many feel a new sense of energy and strength. Making sure to give your body the right amount of nutrients to take on this new lifestyle is key. Yes, you’ll probably eat more, but that’s ok. Muscle burns more than fat, so don’t fret! As you build muscles, even at rest, your body will burn more calories, so eat up. Of course, try your best to eat clean and healthy foods. These don’t have to be boring. There are so many great resources, like Pinterest, to find great meals. In addition, plan for extra rest (hours of sleep at night) the first couple of weeks. If you’re a spoonie (someone who has low energy due to their chronic illness), this may be extra important. Your body will need a little extra time to heal and learn about your new lifestyle.
Q: Foot drop presents a range of challenges, like balance, that would cause someone to have safety concerns when it comes to exercise. What are some ways that someone who has foot drop can exercise more safely?
A: Seated workouts are a great option but if you want to work on balance or stability, take it slow and hold on. It doesn’t have to be a race to do your reps. Take it slow, focus on your form, and tune in with your breathing (it sounds cliché, but I promise it makes a HUGE difference!) Make sure to hold onto a chair or wall for stability. If you’re able to transfer to the floor, exercises like Mat Pilates are great. I teach one that is 100% on the floor and gives you a killer full body workout! There’s nothing worse than taking 10 steps back because you’ve been injured, so remember to always think about your safety when you’re working out.
Q: Many people, not just those with foot drop, think that to begin exercising that they need to join a gym, own special equipment, or participate in a high-level program like CrossFit. This is not true. In fact, working out at home has become much easier and more accessible, with many options for programs. What do people need to start a fitness routine, and can you recommend any program that they might consider?
A: Resistance bands can make such a difference to your home workouts. They’re inexpensive, take minimal space, and are easy to work into your exercises. I teach alongside a few other incredible adaptive fitness coaches at All Bodies Community. We teach an array of classes for all different abilities that you can do right in the comfort of your own home. Our instructors believe fitness is ever evolving, believing you can create goals for yourself AND love your body every step of the way.
Q: Can you tell us more about All Bodies Community and where people can get more information?
A: All Bodies Community is my passion project. I started it over lockdown in hopes people of all abilities could find a safe space to exercise together in the comfort of their homes. In the past year we’ve grown bringing on other instructors and classes to fill more needs in our community.
Here’s our mission statement: We’re here for you, no matter your age, body shape or mobility. We want you to live your best life, judgment free, surrounded by people who will support your growth. We think fitness is a journey that is ever-evolving, and believe you can create goals for yourself AND love your body every step of the way. Here at All Bodies Community, we offer fitness classes that are accessible for EVERY BODY.
You can find more information about All Bodies Community here: IG: @AllBodiesCommunity Website: www.AllBodiesCommunity.com
Julie Stone lives in Washington state with her husband, John, and their dog, Kira. She is a CMT Advocate and both founder and instructor at All Bodies Community. You can find her on Instagram at: @CMTDefy