Variety Is The Spice Of Exercise

A common discussion our physiotherapists have with patients in clinic is the importance of varied movement and exercise in our daily lifestyles.

Typically, we see that as patients tend to get past the age where field sports are played, we tend to narrow the “variability” of our chosen sports and activities. This narrowing tends to see us all veer towards the same chosen handful of activities and sports – walking, golf, swimming, & cycling all coming immediately to mind at the “go to” for most. Most of us, however, will only tend to engage in one or two of these activities. And therein lies a subtle issue which we strive to highlight and begin to address as a means of improving patient symptoms and ultimately keeping them resolved.

Each activity and form of exercise has its own particular physical (& psychological) benefits. Walking is a fantastic form of cardiovascular exercise, gets us outside, often provides company and social interaction, and gets the blood pumping about our bodies. Invaluable stuff. Golf gets our upper backs and shoulders moving, our hips and spines bending to pick the ball from the hole, and gets our out with those who put a smile on our face. Again, really important health benefits. Swimming? Such a mindful activity, which moves our shoulders like no other. Cycling? Fresh air & (perhaps!) rolling green hills, providing an often grueling workout for the legs while gaining superb movement of the hips and knees.

However…and this is where we discuss with our patients that however good one exercise is, it is only, after all, one exercise which provides one set of physical health benefits specific to that exercise. Allow us to play devil’s advocate, and to take walking as our subject matter.

Commonly, when inquiring as to a given patient’s exercise habits, the response of “I walk for exercise”. Again, this is fantastic, ensuring all of the aforementioned health benefits. “BUT”, we interject, “our bodies need so much more”…

When we walk, we don’t move our upper body. We don’t bend our back. We don’t twist. We don’t challenge our balance. We don’t challenge ourselves enough to elicit any true strength gains. We don’t challenge our co-ordination. We don’t work the muscles which propel us backward. Or propel us from side-to-side. Do we get out of breath? Do we break a sweat?

So again, while walking is a hugely beneficial exercise, it could be supplemented by other exercises or activities to gain a whole multitude of other health benefits perhaps currently being missed. Why not being to undertake a Pilates class (or look up a beginners YouTube video) once weekly also, to take the body out of its comfort zone and move it into a whole array of positions you would normally move into. Why not go back playing Bowls to get that stiff back of yours moving a bit more? Why not phone a friend and get back on the squash court, to break a sweat and get the mode doing all of those unexpected and responsive movements that it has not had been challenged to do in many years?

And finally, when deciding on which other exercise(s) to reintroduce into your lifestyle, why not consider “what do I actually lack in my life?”. For example, for those who work seated at a desk all day, do we really need to jump on a bike and sit in the same rounded, static posture for several hours on a Saturday morning? This is essentially undertaking an exercise which offers no spinal movement, following a 40 hour week or working in a job which offers no spinal movement. Perhaps a swim or a game of tennis would be more appropriate, to get that stiff spine moving and undo the lack of movement from Monday to Friday. Worth a thought perhaps…

So come on, get out of your comfort zone and do something you wouldn’t normally do…your body will thank you for it!

K.M. Woods Physiotherapy Ltd. Offer clinics with one of our experienced, specialist staff at four locations – Glasgow West End (G3), Newton Mearns (G66), Clarkston (G76), and Kirkintilloch (G66). We hope you choose to trust us to help you gain control over your aches and pains, and get back to living a life unrestricted by pain. 0141 3530906 to appoint.