How do I cope without exercise?

Lifting weight was always my go to when stressed or not. It always made me feel great during and after. Knowing my body would look better was a bonus. Running was another I would frequent. I was obsessed with exercise and in really great shape until my first pill of finasteride.

Finasteride immediately caused these to not be an option from day one. I cannot lift weights or run as they increase my symptoms dramatically. I have tried to push through continually for the past year and I am ready to give up on it. It provides no benefits to me just causes more problems even when its just once a week.

How can I cope without exercise? It is always the go to for people to say go exercise and lift heavy but it is no longer an option anymore. Dont get me wrong, my body weight is pretty similar to pre fin. Im not gaining a bunch of weight but I am going to lose a lot of muscle.

I have been going through a very tough time right now PFS related and cant think of anything to keep my mind at ease. I have been going for walks and listening to music/podcasts but the fact that I have been dealing with this for a never ending year now keeps drilling in my head and makes me lose all hope. Having some crazy bad thoughts along with it.

Does anyone have any ideas?

I sometimes notice a similar thing , although I just keep going as I feel I’m training my body to adjust to exercising again .
That’s not an option for everyone , maybe exercise makes some people’s symptoms way worse (like yourself) so what I would suggest trying is this:

I read recently (can’t find the source but when I do I’ll post it here) that people with CFS/ME have a similar thing where exercise makes them feel worse and worsens their symptoms drastically .

What they do is incremental exercise , really really small bits of exercise at a time and gradually over a long period they build it up slow.

This might mean doing 5 bench presses on a low weight and that’s it. The same for the rest of the month, and the month after that .
Running for a mile and that’s it . Same again for the next 6 months .

It sucks if you have been a gym regular and lifted well to do stuff like this , but like most things with this disease the body needs a vast amount of time to adjust .
I have noticed ‘runners high’ has gone when I run , however I choose to keep going and keep pushing my body in check that we are going to exercise and this is the normal , regardless of how it makes me feel

All this easier said than done but it could be a try for ya!

Maybe it’s a good thing to take a break from weightlifting for a couple of weeks/months, and pick it up again after some more time has passed. Maybe by then your body will have less negative reaction.

Maybe your body is just trying to tell you that you need to take a break from exerting yourself and your muscles so much or maybe your body just needs some extra time to heal certain things. Personally speaking from experience as a guy who hasn’t worked out in almost a year… I do feel I have slightly improved, and after a good run I have slight improvement in my sexual symptoms.

If running also worsens your symptoms maybe just try walking instead, or rollerblading or some other thing that’s a bit less muscle-intensive.

This way you may still do something that helps you reduce stress and get your mind off things but also allow your body some chill time, and you don’t have to completely give up your physical hobbies.

Thanks for the replies guys

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It’s called post exercise malaise (PEM). As mentioned above, people with CFS/PFS/ME often get it. I had it really bad two years ago. I kept powering through but always ended up feeling far worse and fatigued/brain fogged for days. Don’t push through it and let your body heal first.


Did it improve or do you just not exercise now?

Before I crashed I was an avid gym rat / bodybuilder. Spent 5-6 days a week in the gym, working out was pretty much my only hobby.

PFS took that from me in the blink of an eye. For the past 2 years I have been dealing with horrible exercise intolerance and post exercise malaise.

When I first crashed I kept trying to push push push myself, I wanted to continue training, I wanted to continue living the life I lived prior. This only made my situation so much worse and lead me to crashing severely and developing adrenal fatigue / CFS.

I know how hard it is, but you need to listen to your body. If you feel worse off for exercising, then do not fucking do it, the body knows best and the body is always right. If you feel worse off for exercising there is a very good reason why and your body is not ready. I learnt this the hard way.

I know its tough. I was there. Here’s what I replaced instead. I have not been able to train in the gym for a number of years now, getting back into weightlifting & bodybuilding is literally like one of my top goals. Repace with:

  1. Long walks & hikes in nature, completely off the phone, just being mindful and present.
  2. Anything outdoors, just going for a swim at the beach for example, maybe a light easy bike ride, etc.
  3. Instead of focusing on what you are missing out on, instead change your mindset to understand how lucky you are and what you do have. Train your brain to be grateful for everything in your life. Practice gratitude regularly. Even though you can’t exercise now, be grateful and realise that this is temporary, some people lose their legs in car crashes and can’t exercise ever again. Always chose to be positive and grateful.

Good luck man you will get through this, this is temporary.

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This was the biggest pill to swallow for me throughout all of this. Losing my body’s response to exercise was absolutely soul crushing and was very, very difficult to learn to cope with. You just have to take it easy and do what your body will allow you to do.

The advice here about building it up in incremental amounts is helpful.

The mental approach is also important. CBT is powerful and how you are perceiving things. If you are talking to yourself with “I can’t do this” and “I’m not normal” - that becomes reality. If you instead continually favour yourself and use thoughts you want - you do a lot better.

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Yeah great replies.I have had pfs for close to a year now.

Its not that the motivation isnt there to exercise its just a complete intolerance to it. Lifting, my muscles are so shakey it looks like I have parkinsons or something. The soreness is completely different can only describe it as a plasticy feeling. Even throwing a football for like 15 minutes my joints would ache for days after like nothing I have ever experienced. All these happened immediately after the first pill. I did try to slowly work my way back up to where I was at but it wasnt possible. Still felt all the same symptoms even at a lower weight. Maybe I do need to take another break again.

Would this be considered a neurological problem?

Yeah running increases my brain fog/eye issues immensely. Dont get a runners high like I used to.

Yeah i have switched to taking long walks but its been tough because on those walks it gives me a lot of time to think and thats not something thats been healthy for me right now cant seem to focus on anything but pfs right now.

Yes also one of my biggest goals would be to get back into weight lifting again

On a positive note over the year I have noticed that I am not nearly as fatigued as I used to after exercise but that was always a secondary problem for me when it comes to exercise post finasteride

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Paradoxically, I feel a lot better post exercise these days. I take this as a positive sign.


Pleased to hear it. I would think anything that’s a step closer to normality is a positive.


I’m still having a hard time with exercise. If I run for 30 mins for example over a span of 3 days, I will wake up earlier each day and my deep and REM sleep both decline according to my Fitbit app. If I don’t exercise however, I sleep better and usually get a solid sleep score on my Fitbit but I feel lethargic. What’s causing this loop? I always joke with my wife that “I’m running but I can’t sleep” lol. Also my anxiety increases tremendously when I exercise…I get emotional and overly concerned about small things. I attached a screenshot of my sleep cycle when I run:

Post exercise malaise or PEM is a mysterious symptom that not only those with PFS get, but also CFS/ME. I used to crash badly post exercise and feel totally wiped out/rundown whereas in the past I used to get runner’s high with high endurance. I think it boils down to how your body handles stress (think adrenals). My advice is don’t power through and give your body time it needs to recover. One way to go about this is to go for light intensity cardio and try and find out the right intensity level that your body can handle. Also, try and exercise in the morning so that your cortisol can return to baseline at bedtime.

Fortify your body with adequate calories, fats, protein, carbs, sleep and hydration.

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Below is a week of sleep with no exercise: here are the variables for this week: walked 10,000 steps or more (didn’t run), traveled a lot and drove at least two hours each day, and cut out caffeine. Something worth sharing…exercise is definitely a doozie on the body.

I cannot exercise either. Anything more than light cardio and it’s impossible to sleep well that night and it throws my body out for a number of days. Very very frustrating. I sleep my best and feel my best when I avoid exercise, sadly.


Yes I understand. For me, muscle tremors make it unbearable to lift weights and post light cardio my muscle tremors and eye and “brain fog” side effects increase dramatically. Complete exercise intolerance, hasnt changed for me since I took my first pill. Thats coming from someone who lifted heavy weights 3 times a week for an hour and ran a few miles at a time for like 8 years.

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