Time to Read
- Strength Training
- Tai Chi
When you’re in pain of any degree, it can be tempting to avoid exercising. But inactivity leads to stiffness and low stamina as well as reduced strength and range of motion. Regular exercise is a great way to keep our bodies as healthy as possible, and it can also reduce pain and improve your overall quality of life.
It’s important to work with your physical therapist or doctor when embarking on a new regime of exercise, and to remember that it isn’t a ‘quick-fix’ but rather an ongoing self-care regimen.
With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to start slow and monitor your symptoms if you decide to take up any of the following exercises and manage your pain.
Walking is perhaps the most accessible form of exercise, as there are few medical conditions that make it unfeasible, taking it up it doesn’t require any equipment and comes at no financial cost. It’s also a relatively low-impact activity that will engage muscles in your core, back and legs. In short, walking is great for the environment, your petrol bill, and your cardiovascular health!
Occasionally replacing short drives with short walks will up your vitamin D and energy levels, as well as reducing stiffness and increasing circulation of blood around the body.
The weather is perhaps the biggest limiting factor to taking up walking, so it’s important to prepare for it with sunscreen and a hat if it’s nice out, or in wet and wintry conditions you should wrap up appropriately and wear sturdy shoes with good grip. As with any form of exercise it’s important to know your limits: bring any canes, sticks or walkers that you require; and go at your own pace!
Like walking, swimming and water-based exercises are also low-impact activities that will be gentle on your joints while still engaging muscles in your shoulders, back, legs and core. Swimming is an especially great low-risk option for those with chronic conditions or arthritis, as the water supports and cushions the body while providing enough resistance to work out vigorously if you want.
However, swimming does very little for your bone strength, so if you feel able to it’s a good idea to pair swimming with some gentle weight-bearing exercise like walking, dancing or some gentle weight training.
Strengthening your muscles doesn’t need to be done at a bodybuilder level to make a real impact on your muscles and joints. Strengthening the muscles in your body will take some pressure off your joints when in use and reduce pain.
There are many small, affordable sets of weights on the market for home use if the gym isn’t the best option for you. Alternatively, you can train to great effect using your own body weight or additionally ankle and wrist weights can be used to maximise the impact of everyday movements like walking or reaching up. Another great option for home use is bottles of water, milk or sand are great D-I-Y weights substitutes and allow you to adjust the weight you are bearing as needed.
It is crucial in instances of serious injury or chronic illnesses that your doctor or physiotherapist is consulted before the undertaking of a weight training regime, and that you discuss what kinds of exercises and weights are best for your body.
Of this list, yoga is perhaps a more high-risk but nonetheless worthwhile activity to venture into, the breathing and mental aspect of it is equally important. Even someone who is bedridden can benefit from the meditative aspects of yoga and participate in breathing exercises and engage their muscles with passive movements (tensing and relaxing muscles while stationary).
Some movements in yoga are considered too extreme for all participants, and many involve the spine and other joints. It’s important when taking up yoga to follow the instruction of a qualified instructor and to pay attention to your body and its limits.
Pilates is another great exercise which will not require much equipment for you to enjoy and partake in it. It is however important to get instruction from someone who is knowledgeable about Pilates and this can be gained by joining a class at your local gym.
This is a great exercise option for those who suffer from back pain or are just looking to improve their core and posture. Much like yoga, Pilates places a focus on mental as well as physical health, and there is much to be gained socially by doing either in a group/class setting.
Again, Tai Chi is an exercise system that cultivates mindfulness alongside physical exercise. It is considered to be very age and ability inclusive, and its slow, deliberate movements make it perfect for anyone looking for a gentle whole-body exercise routine. Tai Chi has also been observed to reduce the likelihood of falls in older and vulnerable people as it improves balance and coordination.
The above exercises are just a few options for increasing your activity levels and managing high pain levels associated with chronic illness or injury. If you identify as having a long-term or chronic illness that causes physical pain and discomfort, these exercises are an excellent way to improve your physical and mental health. Incorporating exercise into your life is by no means a cure or a quick solution to health issues, but everyone can benefit from maintaining a greater level of activity in their life to boost circulation, joint health, muscle strength and energy levels.