How Much Should I Exercise?

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If you have ever been to Physical Therapy, then you are probably aware that exercise activity and a prescription of “homework exercises” are typically going to be a component of your treatment.  Our bodies are designed to move, and when our movement becomes impaired through injury, bad habits, or inactivity, we typically begin to feel those effects through pain and lost abilities. Physical Therapists are movement experts, and are well trained at identifying and correcting the movement dysfunction that serves as the underlying cause of the problematic symptoms. This is one of the main reasons why Physical Therapists are such proponents of exercise and activity in general.  When done correctly, movement serves as the basis for ongoing health and wellness.

A common question that patients will ask when given a set of exercises to do at home is, “How often should I do them and for how long a period of time?”.  While the exact specifics of that answer will vary depending on the prescribed goal, the core answer will almost always be “Regularly”.  In the same way that other healthy habits  (getting quality sleep, showering, brushing your teeth, eating a healthy and well-rounded diet etc.), depend on consistency to accomplish long term maintenance, regular bouts of exercise/activity are essential for maintaining optimal body performance and functioning. We live in a world where technology has rapidly created an environment where both our work lives and entertainment options are becoming increasingly sedentary.  This has made establishing a regular routine of physical activity all the more important.

So, how do you establish a regular physical routine?

  1. Consult a Physical Therapist– Does pain prevent you from being as active as you want? Are you unsure about what activities might be appropriate for you?  Do you need help getting started on the right foot? These are all questions a Physical Therapist can help you to answer. A PT will also perform an assessment of your whole physical function and can then inform you of potential impairments and deficits that should be addressed, in order to help you to move at your best.
  2. Find Something You Enjoy– Does the thought of going to the gym regularly make you want to quit before you even start? Realizing that exercise can take on limitless forms and occur in many locales can be a very freeing concept to a large percentage of people who associate exercise with a gym.  Join a yoga or a dance class, take up hiking, biking or swimming, find a favorite exercise video that can be done at home, or join a recreational sports team.  There is an option for everyone out there.
  3. Make Long Term Goals– One of the consistent findings on assessment of the habits of successful people, is that these folks have the ability to establish long term goals and then work consistently toward achieving them. Do you want to drop some weight to fit into old clothes?  Be able to enjoy and participate in an event or activity for an upcoming vacation? Train to participate in a 5k or a marathon?  Make a goal, along with several short-term goal “checkpoints” and then track your progress as you enjoy the benefits of newfound healthy habits.
  4. Take Small Bites– Never underestimate the benefit of something done consistently for a short duration over a long period of time. A common barrier to physical activity is that there is not enough time in the schedule. There is always time to implement 5-10 minutes of activity into a day.   Park further away from your destination than usual  in order to squeeze in a few minutes of walking between errands.  Do standing squats or heel raises in place while waiting in line or watching your child’s sport activity.  Practice your 1-leg balance while brushing your teeth.  Go around the block with the dog.  Take the stairs to your next appointment.  You will be surprised how a 5-10 minute habit will both yield benefits as well as surprisingly grow into more activity over time.
  5. Participate With Friends– Not only does having an exercise buddy provide accountability for making sure you get your activity in, but being social while you move can make the process of getting fitter more enjoyable at the same time.

Ready to take on a new leave of physical fitness?  If you need help in getting started or want to make sure you are prepared to meet the goals you have set for yourself, give us a call! Symmetry Physical Therapy’s Physical Therapists would be glad to help you to be your best physical self.

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