After an organ transplant, check with your doctor before starting a physical fitness plan. This applies to anyone who has had a transplant. But it's especially true for people who like rough and tumble sports like football or high impact activities, like jogging.
Do something you like. It's obvious, but it bears repeating: if you don't choose a sport that you enjoy, you won't want to do it. So don't settle on something too quickly. Try out some different possibilities.
Be cautious when swimming. Public pools and swimming holes may have bacteria that could be dangerous. Check with your health care team before taking a dip.
Set realistic goals. You don't have to run that marathon right away. Give yourself time. Start slow and work up gradually. Eventually, aim for some physical activity every day.
Don't push yourself. Listen to your body. If you're in pain or really worn out after exercise, you've done too much. Next time, don't drive yourself so hard.
Make it social. Jeffrey D. Punch, MD, chief of the Division of Transplantation at the University of Michigan Health System, recommends activities that you can do with other people. Try walking or biking with a friend. Try a fitness class. Doing something with other people can make it more fun. It may also make you more committed to exercise if someone else is relying on you.
Make small changes. "Subtle things make a difference," says Punch. He recommends getting yourself to walk a little extra whenever you can. "Cancel your newspaper subscription so you have to walk to the corner store instead," he suggests. "Get a dog that needs to be walked."
Get advice from an expert. Personal trainers are not just for the rich and famous anymore. Although they may still be a little pricey, Punch says that in some cases they're worth the investment.
Barry Friedman, RN, administrative director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program, Children's Medical Center, Dallas; former president of the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization. Richard Perez, MD, PhD, medical director of the Transplant Center, professor in the Department of Surgery, University of California Medical Center at Davis. Jeffrey D. Punch, MD, associate professor of Surgery, chief of the Section of Transplantation, director of the Liver Transplant Program, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor. United Network for Organ Sharing web site. United Network for Organ Sharing's "Transplant Living" web site. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Partnering with Your Transplant Team: The Patient's Guide to Transplantation, 2004."
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