My Experience with Chronic Disease

‘My current situation is not my final destination’

Recovering from a chronic illness is tough and certainly not the path I ever chose for myself.

As a Physiotherapist and an ex gymnast I was always bursting full of energy and loved exercising!  I just could not get enough.  Running, swimming, boxing, you name it, I gave it a try.

Whilst I enjoyed swimming, I never really was much of a swimmer.  I mean I could swim and do all 4 strokes but let's just say I was not the fastest in the water.  I just enjoyed being in the water and giving it a go.

I fell out of practice for a while and was forced to get back into the pool when I hurt my hip running around 2009.  It allowed me to exercise, move and strengthen my body in a different way to running, which I had never really appreciated.  And in fact when I started to run again I was amazed at how much better my running was!

I kept swimming in the background but found swimming again in 2010 after being diagnosed with a chronic bacterial infection, leading to me getting the further complication of rheumatoid arthritis.  I also now use it as my main form of exercise after having a severe flare up of my chronic illness over the past nearly 2 years.  Swimming has allowed me to move my body which is exactly what it needs.  I have certainly found it hard finding the balance between moving and not overdoing it.  I am still amazed how hard my muscles work in the pool and just how deconditioned my body really is. I have learnt to give myself plenty of recovery (weeks not days) in between my sessions and not to be embarrassed about my current fitness level and strength.  

Mel with a keen observer

Mel with a keen observer

The health benefits of swimming

  • Low impact form of exercise
  • Improves muscle strength and range of movement of joints
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness 
  • Improves mood
  • Reduces stress


Further more specific information can be found by reviewing these abstracts or even reading the whole article! 

'Improved function and reduced pain after swimming and cycling training in patients with osteoarthritis'

Effect of therapeutic aquatic exercise on symptoms and function associated with lower limb osteoarthritis: a systematic review with meta analysis

Effectiveness of aquatic exercise for musculoskeletal conditions: a meta analysis

Moderately intensive exercise in a temperate pool for patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised controlled study 

No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch

No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch

Why I like swimming:

  • I feel relaxed in the water and time feels like it stops
  • I am able to move my body and my joints and give my muscles a workout
  • A sense of freedom of movement
  • Reduction in pain in my joints
  • Assistance with fluid movement around my ankles and feet
  • Meditative type relaxation 
  • Feeling empowered and like I can do anything
  • Makes me feel alive and energetic
Tough times don't last, tough people do

Tough times don't last, tough people do

Everybody has their challenges but it's what we choose to do that separates us.  When I awake in the morning, the hardest time of day for me, I have to get up.  I have no choice.  I have got to get up and get moving.  Movement is life.

So if you're struggling to find your motivation then I hope this is it.  Get out there and try something and just give it a go.  Human movement is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself.  At this moment in time swimming is my form of movement and it is the start of my progression back into the gym when I can commence strength training and finally do jui Jitsu!!!  For now I'm hitting the pool whenever I can, allowing myself the rest in between.  

Mel showing her enthusiasm for swimming!

Mel showing her enthusiasm for swimming!

The team at The Movement Team are certainly helping me so I can move forwards.  My goal is to enter an Open Water Swim race in Australia and just have fun!  I don't want to break records I just want to feel alive. I also still have unfinished business in the UK.  The 2.25 mile swim near Hampton Court in the River Thames.  I will do it! 

Have a good day!  I'm off for a swim!

But after I've sorted my partner in crime out..... 


Amos- he, like me, likes to swim at the local creek. (He has only just learnt but loves it!)

Amos- he, like me, likes to swim at the local creek. (He has only just learnt but loves it!)

Mel has 8 years of Physiotherapy experience with key areas of expertise in community based rehabilitation and care. Mel is co-ordinating our home visiting service for those in our community who find it hard to get to our centre.