Exercise and Lupus – At Home or at the Gym?

You want to be successful when starting any exercise regime, and you probably want it to be convenient, comfortable, affordable and motivating especially when you are already challenged with lupus. Avoiding additional stress will help you to stay engaged and in a regular routine. You may be asking yourself, however, where’s the best place to do all of this? In the comfort of my own home or at the local gym?



The idea of starting any exercise can seem overwhelming, especially if you have lupus and/or an overlap disease. The prospect of incorporating a daily fitness practice may seem daunting and, frankly, intimidating, especially if there are days when you spend enough time worrying about how you’re going to do your grocery shopping or walk the dog let alone do Pilates. Having some solid information can help banish some of the fear and anxiety of starting to exercise and give you control over the practice and your body.


An Interview with Mitch Tugaw, Certified Personal Trainer

I recently interviewed Certified Personal Trainer Mitch Tugaw of the Oregon Health & Science University’s March Wellness Program. When I asked Mitch how someone with lupus should start any exercise program, he suggested to “start small and listen to your body.” He often works with individuals who have lupus and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and recognizes that “not everyone experiences autoimmune diseases the same” and that “some days will be tougher than others.” He also notes, “consistency is the key.”

Even if you can only manage 10 minutes a day, especially at first, don’t be discouraged. Just keep going at it the best you can. When discussing this with clients, Mitch refers to the “spoon theory.”  You only have so many spoons each day, and so he recommends that you “keep your self-care activities, such as exercise, near the beginning of your day.” Setting realistic expectations will also help you determine where you want to your exercise routines to take place.

Mitch suggests scheduling an appointment with a personal trainer or physical therapist who has experience working with individuals with lupus and/or overlap diseases. “Finding a trainer with the correct background [who] can perform an assessment [will] allow them to design a program built around your needs, goals and restrictions.” Your healthcare practitioner can help you find a suitable professional to get started.

If you are in the Portland area, click here for more information about OHSU’s March Wellness Center and to contact their personal trainers with any questions.

You can watch my complete interview with Mitch here:


Living Room or Weight Room?

Working Out at Home

Working at home means you never have to drive anywhere to exercise, and you don’t have to worry about weather or traffic. You can wear anything you want – comfy sweatpants are always in style. You can get almost as much variety working out at home as you can in a gym if you have options such as free weights, stretch bands, a yoga mat and the ability to stream videos of online routines. Working out at home can feel good when you are surrounded by your creature comforts – you can play your own music, kick your shoes off and even do some laundry while getting fit.  I actually find running the dishwasher or washing machine at the same time helps me pace myself and gets me through a workout.

While this may sound like a good idea to some, it may not for others. You may not have enough space to workout. You can get too comfortable working out at home and not challenge yourself. Working out at home may also make it too easy to it put off.  Paying for a gym membership, and having a place away from the distractions of home may be just the incentives you need to exercise. I have a good friend who finds that she can never get in a decent yoga practice at home because something or someone always gets in her way. Honestly, you may just want an excuse to get out of the house.

Joining the Gym

The gym may be a good place to start a new exercise routine. They have the latest equipment and the trainers to help you use them. Most gyms offer lockers and showers, classes and sometimes a spa! You may also enjoy (or need) the energy of others around you for the motivation to keep going. It may also be easier to increase or modify your workout as you and your healthcare practitioner see fit since a gym may offer more variety and space than you would have at home.

On the other hand, the gym community can be overwhelming – it’s a practice in patience to learn how to navigate people and all of that equipment. The gym can get crowded and noisy and can be inconvenient if it is not close. Gyms can also be intimidating at first – you may feel like all eyes are on you (trust me, they are not). You may also feel like you always have to look your best and invest a lot of money in clothing you don’t need for any other purpose.  It can also be expensive – the monthly fees may be low, but you may be locked into a contract that’s expensive to break.  At some point, if you don’t go often enough, you may even feel guilty that you are wasting your money.

Yet, for all of the possible hassle, the gym can be a safe and inspiring change of pace.  Almost all gyms offer introductory pricing, so it is always a good idea to ask, and if you can find a trainer like Mitch, it might make a world of difference!

In Conclusion

The choice is yours as long as you discuss your options with your healthcare practitioner. When you live with lupus and/or any overlap diseases, special care needs to be taken when embarking on any fitness plan no matter where you choose to practice. It doesn’t have to be a cut-and-dry decision, however – you may want to start out working out at the gym in order to experience variety and then once you find your niche, take it to your living room. You may choose to start out at home and as you feel more confident and your endurance builds, take it to the gym in order to bump it up a notch. You may surprise yourself and what you are capable of and you may find yourself actually enjoying this kind of challenge! Never underestimate yourself and always treat yourself with kindness – you may find yourself more physically and emotionally fit that you ever expected through the process.


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Hart, L. (2014). The (honest) pros and cons of keeping a gym membership. Retrieved from: https://thoughtcatalog.com/lizzi-hart/2014/06/the-honest-pros-and-cons-of-keeping-a-gym-membership/
The pros and cons of working out at home. (2017). Retrieved from: https://wonderfabi.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/the-pros-and-cons-of-working-out-at-home/
Tugaw, M. (2019, January 23).  Interview with L. Heintz.
Waehner, P. (2018). The benefits of joining a gym vs. working out at home. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfit.com/in-the-forum-join-a-gym-or-workout-at-home-3976890


Author: Liz Heintz

Liz Heintz is a technical and creative writer who received her BA in Communications, Advocacy, and Relational Communications from Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She most recently worked for several years in the healthcare industry. A native of San Francisco, California, Liz now calls the beautiful Pacific Northwest home.

All images unless otherwise noted are property of and were created by Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus. To use one of these images, please contact us at [email protected] for written permission; image credit and link-back must be given to Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus.

All resources provided by us are for informational purposes only and should be used as a guide or for supplemental information, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. The personal views expressed here do not necessarily encompass the views of the organization, but the information has been vetted as a relevant resource. We encourage you to be your strongest advocate and always contact your healthcare practitioner with any specific questions or concerns.

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