Joint discomfort often presents a chicken-egg dilemma: You know exercise is crucial to better flexibility, but it's so painful that it’s easier not to do it. But bodies are also meant to move. And when a body moves less, physical systems weaken: The heart doesn’t pump as efficiently, lung capacity and the ability to use oxygen you breathe declines, muscles weaken which allows more stress load on joints, and fat- and weight- gain are likely to occur. Regular exercise benefits your entire body.
Here are 5 rules to help you regain motion without hurting yourself:
1. Start really easy. Go really slow.
For those who tend to avoid moving because it is painful, starting slow and increasing the exercise time or intensity very gradually is the way to go. That way you can modify a body position or movement or activity that causes excessive pain before it reaches a point of extreme discomfort.
2. Make baby goals.
Setting small and realistic goals is a first step in moving more. And “baby steps” is the operative phrase: If you can’t walk 30 minutes a day, that’s OK. But can you walk for five minutes? Or even three? Once you achieve this, you can add a minute per week, or whatever it takes to progress slowly, easily and gradually.
3. Experiment to find the right activity fit.
If an exercise is too uncomfortable, it’s OK to try something else. Try a different position or variation of a weight move or stretch. Or try a whole new activity or machine. Water exercise (as in a pool) tends to be more comfortable than weight-bearing exercising like walking. Or certain cardio machines such as an elliptical trainer or bike may be easier than a stepper or a treadmill. Experiment…but remember rule 1…go slow at first.
4. Pay attention and pace yourself.
People who may push too hard can benefit from taking it easier. And this can be done by following a structured plan. If pain kicks in after 15 minutes of walking, then stopping at 10 minutes and resuming another shorter bout later may be a better approach.
5. Sit less
If there are days or weeks when you can’t do a walk or a weight-training session, at least move around your home or stand while you talk on the phone. Do arm raises as you would if you were doing jumping jacks without the jumping part. But be sure to do them in slow, controlled movements. Keeping your arm and shoulder joints moving is just as important as your hips and knees.
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