How I exercise with a chronic illness

Hello again lovelies!! I’m often asked on social media how I manage to exercise so much with my ME and Fibromyalgia – so I thought I’d write a  blog post with all the things that help me. Of course, everyone is different so not all of these tips may work for you but I’m really loving being more active within the chronic illness community! 

1. Learn to listen to your body

If you’re in perfect health then pushing yourself to go to the gym when you’re tired is probably okay as it’s just a case of motivation, but if you’ve got a chronic illness it’s so important not to do this! Learning how to listen to my body has been a vital part of improving my symptoms. If I’m feeling too tired or I’m in too much pain then I won’t exercise – simple as that!! You wouldn’t drive a car with no petrol in it – don’t do the same to your body! 
For me, a lot of this journey has revolved around accepting my limitations and accepting that I simply can’t do everything. There’ll be days when I look like the above picture – super fit and sassy(!) – and there’ll also be days when I need to use my walking stick. The majority of people will understand this, and the rest you can just hit with your stick!! (Just kidding, I don’t condone violence!!)

2. Find low impact options!!

For me, impact is a killer – particularly for my knees and ankles – so I avoid it as much as possible. For cardio, some lower impact options are swimming, crosstrainer, rowing machine or a bike. With weights, I tend to stick on the cable machines as they give me high weight options without the stress of lifting free weights.


3. Load up on supplements

I have some mixed views about the range of supplements out there as there’s some I don’t believe should be so easily accessible for people to get but they can be super helpful. I particularly recommend taking BCAAs as they aid muscle recovery and growth. My favourite ones are the Strawberry Kiwi flavour from Women’s Best and I tend to drink it whilst I’m working out. If you know you’re lacking in vitamins then there’s plenty of multivitamin options out there too!

4. Plan rest the same way you’d plan a workout

As my tee suggests, I love a rest day!! They are so important for muscle recovery – especially when you have a chronic illness. I try to plan my week in advance – and usually will know which days I’ll try to exercise. This allows me to plan time to rest too. I know this point is quite similar to my first one but I think people often plan gym sessions and then don’t plan for rest and recovery time!


5. Take advice with a pinch of salt

There’s so many fitness tips available online but it’s important to remember that these are usually catered to the average person and don’t take into account the possible effect for people with a chronic illness. For example, I saw a post recently about the benefits of cold showers – but I’m badly affected by cold so this isn’t something that would work for me! Ultimately, nobody knows your body better than you do so make sure you take a bit of time to think before trying out an idea you’ve seen online.

shop the tee

I really hope these tips are helpful, my DMs are always open if you have any specific questions you’d like to ask me – you can find me on Instagram here and Twitter here! I can’t link the full outfit as the leggings are Gymshark Seamless that are no longer available and the trainers are Primark, but you can find the tee on PrettyLittleThing here

Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments!!

*This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

Ali Hemsley
Ali Hemsley

Ali is a 24 year old lifestyle blogger. She combines her advocacy and awareness work for chronic illness and mental health with her love for fashion. You can follow Ali on social media @alihemsley


  1. Sophie
    May 21, 2018 / 2:24 pm

    Brilliant post Ali, I have fibromyalgia as well and often suffer from exercise guilt when all I feel like is going home from work and getting back into bed. Have you ever suffered from exercise guilt if so how did you combat it? I know I need to listen to myself and trust my instincts but the ‘normal’ part of me always feels like I should do more.

    Also do you have any workout routines that you would recommend?

    • Ali Hemsley
      May 21, 2018 / 2:28 pm

      Hi lovely!
      Thank you so much for your comment— you definitely need to just listen to your body and remind yourself that you’re doing great, and every little bit of exercise is an achievement! It is hard not to feel guilty but honestly you have no reason to… you wouldn’t compare yourself to an elite sportsperson like Usain Bolt, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else either, as they’re not in the same situation!
      Maybe I should write some specific exercise plans of what works for me! Would you prefer a whole body workout or specific areas?

  2. May 21, 2018 / 6:20 pm

    Love this post! Super helpful, thank you! I struggle with knowing when to stop and rest, I often push myself too far and regret it everytime! Definitely need to start really listening to my body. I’d love to know what sort of workout routines you do and what you find effective?! X

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