How to Start an Exercise Program
So, the doctor told you to start exercising; but, that seems like an impossible task because you are experiencing pain and disability. What is the best way to get started without getting worse?
With Guidance: The initial guidance of a physical therapist, doctor or personal trainer can help jump start your exercise program in the right direction. By receiving instruction about what to do, and how much to do, you are less likely to get worse. Tell the professional which body parts are causing pain and disability, so that he/she will be able to customize your exercise program to your body. Once you get a solid program going, you will be able to exercise independently for the rest of your life.
In Water: The effects of gravity can really make exercise difficult to accomplish. Everything feels heavier on land than in water. Your legs, your arms and your entire body will be easier to move when you are submersed in water. A pool is a great place to start an exercise program. Just start by walking in the pool and you’ll notice a big difference. Even if walking in the pool is all you do, that is better than no exercise at all.
Not Quickly: Starting an exercise program too quickly, too fast, and too much is one way to get worse. In his book, Explain Pain, David Butler talks about gradually re-introducing your body to exercising. By establishing a baseline level of activity that does not lead to a significant flare up, you can then build up your strength and endurance by gradually increasing the amounts of exercise. Remember, marathon runners do not start by running a full marathon. They start gradually with shorter distances first. Expect to be sore when you start exercising and anytime you increase your program intensity; that is normal.
You will WIN by starting an exercise program now. Winning isn’t easy. Winning takes time. But the investment will be worth it. The more you do, the more you will be able to do. Or as Jack LaLanne says, “Life is an Olympic event that you need to train for.” So if you expect to be able to spend a day with your grandchildren, or go shopping for a few hours, you will need to train for those events by exercising regularly. By maintaining a certain level of fitness, you are less likely to experience pain with activity. You WIN.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.