This is the time of year when we start to feel a little guilty about all of our Christmas eating and drinking excesses. It’s very common to pack on a few extra pounds of weight as the food consumption goes up and the activity levels go down. It’s also a time of the year when a lot of people say ‘right that’s it I’m going to get fit.’
Whilst in principle that’s great and we want to encourage that, there are a few words of wisdom which might help you avoid any nasty injuries and pains as you start your voyage to fitness.
The tissues of our bodies – from bones, muscles, joint capsules, tendons and the like adapt to the stresses and strains which we put through them regularly. So if you run a lot your body will adapt to cope with the running. Play netball and the body tissues get used to the twisting and turning and jumping activities within the game by getting stronger. Don’t play sport or run or jump around and the reverse happens.
This is one of the things which I find fascinating about the human body, its ability to change to what we ask it to do. However, this clever system can also cause us problems when we try and ask it to do things we are not used to.
If you suddenly do more or different activity than you normally would do – that January kick to get fit, you may injure tissue which could lead you to a lot of pain.
Our bodily tissues take time to adapt when we start something new or increase what we have been doing. Therefore, if you have plans to get out there and get fit – take it slowly. As well as avoiding pain and injury it is likely to make the process more enjoyable and fun. After all we rarely like to do things which we don’t like or cause us pain.
Getting fit can sound hard work, but there are multiple health benefits throughout the body – reducing blood pressure, losing weight, toning muscles, strengthening your bones and your heart are to name a few. Exercise also causes the body to release chemicals which can make you feel better about yourself and your life. These are the ‘natural high’ associated with exercise.
The Government recommends we should all do something which gets us out of puff for 30 minutes five times per week. It doesn’t have to be going for a run or attending an aerobics class. If sweeping your drive or a brisk walk to a close friend’s house rather than driving the car gets you out of puff then it’s having a beneficial effect on you.
If you haven’t done any exercise for a while and think you are overweight, have high blood pressure or any other health problems, but like the sound of the benefits exercise can give you, it might pay you to have a chat to your doctor before embarking on your new fitness regime to make sure it’s safe to do so.
Had an injury in the past, feeling the effects of a sedentary job or just not sure where to start or what shoes to wear when you start out exercising? Why not see a healthcare professional like a physiotherapist or osteopath who will be able to advise you on the best way forwards. They will also be able to give you some specific exercises to stretch out stiff areas or give you strengthening exercises to help avoid any injuries. They may be able to give you some manual treatments to maximise your flexibility which might avoid the tissues getting overstretched as you start exercising. They can also advise you on the time and effort levels to start out with or which types of exercises may suit your body type and biomechanics.
Remember to keep it fun. Whatever you decide to do to get yourself fit – it should be a fun and enjoyable experience to keep you motivated and wanting to go back for more. It might be hard work at times, but all that hard work will pay off in the end. There is a form of exercise out there for everyone – you might not find it at the first attempt but keep on going until you find the one for you.
Robert Grainger MSc MCSP MHPC CSCS
Practice Principle PhysioFixx Physiotherapy Clinic