Tips for getting back to exercise

“The alternative to daily exercise, stretching or movement is deterioration, aging, loss of muscle tone and circulation, eventually atrophy and the death of healthy tissue – seriously you need to move!”

As humans we are part of the animal kingdom and are made to move – in all directions, every day.

We were not designed to sit all day at a computer desk, be in a car driving around for hours or working a 12-hour shift in a mining truck etc. We are biped with long legs and arms for a reason – we are made to walk, run, jog, dance, stretch, climb and reach.

Our anatomy and physiology is such that if we don’t constantly move, our muscles and joints do physically become stiff and our fascia (connective tissue or membranes that surround line and separate our muscles, stabilises our bodies etc.) will actually start to fuse together and then limit our mobility.

If you have not exercised for some time due to pain, illness or injury, take it slowly and consult your medical professionals. Here are my tips to consider before you start any movement program:

  • Move with intention – don’t be in a rush. First stop and think what you want to achieve. Secondly visualise it clearly in your mind, mentally feel yourself doing it successfully and then finally make your move. Be deliberate and thoughtful in your actions and you greatly increase success. You also will decrease your chance of accident or injury.

  • Do any new activity slowly. If you been in pain for a while, chances are you’ve lost some muscle tone and flexibility due to inactivity. Suddenly calling those weakened muscles and joints into fast action is not in your best interest. Start slowly!

  • Protect your lower back. Statistically the majority of people experience their pain in the lower back, hips and legs. One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to tighten your stomach muscles, engage your core, before and whenever you put your back under strain, particularly if you are overweight or have a large stomach. For example, when getting in and out of chairs or your car, lifting groceries out of the car boot etc, pull in and tighten those stomach muscles before and during the activity. This will help support the lower back and reduce the potential for injury.

  • Start in small ways – with your everyday activities. Go for a short walk first thing in the morning or in the evening rather than watching TV. Take the dog for a walk (or your partner, children or grandchildren). Take every opportunity to move rather than staying in bed or in that chair! That old saying is true, ‘move it or lose it!’ Start with small, realistic goals and work your way up gradually.

  • Get out of the house! A change of location can increase your energy levels, allow interaction with people, create a diversion and take the focus off your pain. A walk in the garden, along the river or at the beach can give you fresh air to breathe and help improve morale. If you are alone, head to your nearest shopping centre or park and make some new friends.

  • Adopt a positive ‘YES’ attitude. Whenever you get invited anywhere, automatically say yes! Even if you don’t feel like it, the majority of times when you make the effort and get there, you will be glad you did and your body will appreciate the variety of activity and movement.

  • Get out of your pyjamas! When you are not feeling well, you’re tired and you could just stay in bed all day, please don’t! It’s so easy to get stuck in that rut and then the days drag into weeks and months and you just get weaker and weaker. If the least you do in a day is to drag yourself out of bed, clean your teeth, get dressed and brush your hair – you’ve done well. Give yourself a simple daily “must do” routine and commit to looking after yourself!

So the truth is that a movement program takes effort and commitment, however the benefits are immeasurable and the alternative is very scary. Getting started may not be easy but you just have to do it if you want to relieve your pain long term.

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