illness, weight

From Immobile to Mobile: a 20-week Exercise Plan for the Obese and Chronically Ill

I’ve been pretty open on the blog about the seriousness of my health problems and my struggle with my weight. Most recently we are looking into a possible Lyme Disease diagnosis.

Among the plethora of my undiagnosed symptoms are disorientation and dizziness.

That, combined with weakness and anemia has made exercise of any kind very difficult.

The last three times I tried to start exercising regularly,  I injured myself.

The last time, I sprained my ankle and was laid up for two months.

Exercise and I have not been good companions.

I may have even had some not very nice thoughts about exercise, thoughts that included the word “hate.”

Even when I could exercise, I have never ever gotten the euphoria some people are so addicted to.

That being said, I have pushed myself until I was at the point of passing out and still gained weight.

That was probably 5 years ago now.

Between then and now my mobility has severely decreased.

At one point even walking a tenth of a mile would put me in bed for three or four days due to inflammation and pain.

I’m doing better than that right now.  I think it’s due to finding new ways to reduce my autoimmune inflammation.

I’m still struggling.

But, I’m determined to not give up.

Trepidatiously, I broach the topic of exercise again,  fully aware that nothing I have tried has worked,  but too stubborn and determined to give up.

That’s just the honest truth.

Exercising isn’t even about losing weight anymore: it’s about overall health.

A while ago,  I started looking into how to exercise without hurting yourself when you deal with obesity and autoimmunity.

Everything I read was simply too intense.

Their “low-impact” activities would have sent me straight to the hospital –or at very least I would have been in severe pain and unable to walk.

It was as if the people writing the articles thought people were overweight because they simply didn’t try hard enough or because they didn’t know how to exercise like normal people.

Here’s the problem: I can’t exercise like normal people.

It’s physically impossible because of my health conditions.

I asked a few physical therapists I know online for suggestions, and they honestly said that they were reluctant to give any advice given the severely of my condition.

For me, immobility is not an option.

But, how do you go from necessary immobility (when my health dictated it) to some semblance of mobility again?

I want to hike again.

I would someday like to ride a bike again.

I want to stroll through the park with my husband on date night without worrying about how much it will hurt.

I would like to park away from a store and not have to worry if I’ll be physically able to walk back again.

But how?

How do I do that?

At first, my doctor had suggested a one minute walk each day gradually increasing.

That didn’t work because we live on a very busy street, and I’m dealing with the above-mentioned disorientation.

I honestly worry about losing my balance into traffic, and within a moment or two –unless I’m holding onto something like a cart– I’m in pain.

I think someone needs to convert an old building into an exercise place for overweight people where we can push carts around for exercise.

I’m not sure why I the cart helps, but whatever works, right?

At my appointment last Monday,  my doctor suggested walking in place while holding onto a doorway.

I happen to have such a doorway readily available.

Once walking in place seems to be working,  we can try adding some arm movement in.

Because of how severely my body reacts when pushed too hard,  we’re going to have to be extremely cautious.

I’ll be honest with you: even writing this I have tears in my eyes.

All the years and years of trying to lose weight and not being able to no matter how hard I tried has weighed on me.

Exercise is a very difficult topic for me all the way back to when I was a young kid who struggled with asthma.

My whole life exercise has been something that was basically unobtainable.

It has not always been as far from me as it is now,  but it has felt very nemesis-like in the past.

It was one thing that I was supposed to do, that worked for everyone else but seemed to be just beyond my grasp.

Nevertheless,  I’m pushing forward past those I-hate-everything-about-exercise-because-it-failed-me feelings, and I’m going to try again.

Because giving up isn’t an option, and it’s not really the way I am.

I don’t give up.

I make things my own.

So, in an effort to make something that’s doable for me –and because there’s basically zero useful information online about going from immobile to mobile in a reasonable way– I created my own exercise chart.

This is actually low impact.

Like really actually.

Not starting out doing 10 minutes of exercising and working up to 1 hour.

That’s asinine.

I want to live through this with as few complications as possible.

Hopefully without visiting urgent care.

This plan is one minute of walking (holding onto a door frame) a day for a week.

If I swell from that, I’ll do it every other day.

If I can do that for a week, I’ll try two minutes a day the next week.

If that makes me swell, I’ll move back to one minute a day for another week.

Then I’ll try two minutes again.

Gradually, I’ll move up.

It may take a year –or more, but it’s important.

Download a PDF of the 20-week exercise plan here. I added a column to my chart just to let me keep track of what week I’m on once it may take me longer than a week to progress.

You have to start somewhere.

I’m posting about it today for two reasons:

1) Because I know I’m not the only person who has found themselves in this position where every bit of exercise advice is too extreme. So maybe this chart will help someone else.


2) To keep me from chickening out. I know this will not be pleasant. I’m still dealing with so much other stuff that the last thing I want to do is try to start exercising again,  but I believe that it can help my health so much if I can find a way to make it work (whether it causes weight loss or not).

So, I’m posting this here and promising an update in order to force myself to actually do the dreaded thing:  exercise.

Slow progress is better than no progress, right?

That’s what I tell my children.

So, if you think of me, say a prayer for my success.

If you know someone else who struggles with immobility and doesn’t know where to start, maybe the chart will help them, too.

I knew that childhood stubbornness would serve a purpose in my adulthood.

Tell me I can do this!


Sarah Forbes


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