Tips for Exercising with Muscular Dystrophy

Exercising with Muscular Dystrophy

Exercising with muscular dystrophy can be difficult. There are different types of muscular dystrophy and the severity of the condition can vary greatly. If your physician has recommended regular exercise, you can benefit from constant movement and improve muscle tone and increase overall fitness and health. 

What is muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is a group of muscle diseases caused by mutations in a person’s genes. Over time, muscle weakness decreases mobility, making everyday tasks difficult. There are many kinds of muscular dystrophy and each is defined by the specific muscle group it affects. Muscular dystrophy is a lifelong condition, but with the proper care and maintenance, patients can slow or mitigate the effects of muscle loss and weakness.

Warming Up and Stretching

Stretching out the muscles, warming up with low-impact movements, and keeping joints as functional as possible helps to prevent the loss of flexibility that comes with muscular dystrophy. Increasing and maintaining flexibility improves the range of motion and decreases the likelihood of injury while exercising. 5-10 minutes of intentional stretching and movement can reduce the strain from more intense workout routines.

3 Different Types of Excercise

Although there are many different types of exercises, Premier Neurology and Wellness Center wants everyone to choose an exercise that incrementally challenges you and does not overwhelm or injure you. 

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is any exercise that increases your heart rate. A heart rate monitor can be a great way to monitor and maintain a steady difficulty without pushing too far. Specifically, we recommend low-impact exercises such as:

  • Walking

  • Dancing

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

20-30 minutes per day, 4-6 times per week is an ideal workout regiment for most people, but make sure you are comfortable with the intensity and duration of your workout. 

Strength Exercises

Strength training directly targets the muscles using free weights, machines, or even your own body with calisthenics. Although some strength training routines focus on low repetition, and heavy-weight exercises, those with muscular dystrophy are advised to follow an alternative method. A lightweight, high-volume routine can provide great stretch and resistance while minimizing the risk of injury. 

Start with 2-10 pound weights and increase weight gradually. Similarly, using your own body in a calisthenics routine allows you to control the “weight” of an exercise but changing the position or angle of the exercise. Using compound movements can also improve balance and coordination as your body reinforces its movements by using the entire body in unison.


Excersies that incorporate stretching such as Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are great for improving muscle tone as well as helping with joint stiffness. Learning to hold certain positions and introducing new positions can help stretch and engage muscles that you have not exercised before. Start with beginner positions and hold for 10-30 seconds while taking controlled breaths. 

You can find routines for each on YouTube or sign up for classes online or in person. Be sure to start at a comfortable level and pace as you progress through the programs. 

Benefits of Exercising

Before exercising, it is important to discuss your exercise routine with an experienced physician. Muscular dystrophy results in a progressive loss of muscle mass and strength, so exercise may be harmful because it can induce damage and inflammation. However,  lack of physical activity may lead to functional loss, weight gain, fatigue, and an acceleration of the effects of muscular dystrophy. The goal of exercise then is not to become a bodybuilder lifting extreme amounts of weight. Instead, retaining flexibility, reinforce movements, and extend endurance.

In addition to extending endurance and strength, mild-to-moderate exercise will increase blood circulation. Exercise helps circulation as it increases blood flow, gets the heart pumping blood around your body faster, and helps flush the blood through your arteries. 

Premier Neurology & Wellness Center in Stuart, FL is a team of board-certified physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners dedicated to assisting patients with muscular diseases. If you or a loved one is suffering from a musculoskeletal condition or is showing symptoms of a developing condition, it is important to get the assistance and information you need to battle the condition and maintain your lifestyle. Schedule your appointment today.