Exercise; Why We, As Physiotherapists Love It!

When it comes to the phrase “working out” people have mixed responses. Some love it, others dread it. But how can something that makes us feel so good, emotionally, physically and mentally be such a tough one to get around and why is it necessary to keep on keeping on? Let’s explore what exercise is and why we, as physiotherapists, can’t get enough.

Exercise is a fairly broad term covering many different activity and movement types. We tend to consider four main categories; Endurance, Strength, Balance and Flexibility. Ideally all four types of exercise should be included in a healthy workout routine but not all need to be done every day.

  1. Endurance exercise is fairly low resistance. It gets our heart pulsing and our breathing rate up (walking, running, swimming, cycling). While every individual has their own baseline to work with, a simply goal to try remembering is 30mins a day, five days a week (AHF, 2014).
  2. Strength training is exactly as it sounds. It’s helping your muscles get stronger and leaner by using a form of resistance. This can be body weight or with the help of an external weight (dumbbell or theraband). Trying to incorporate strength training into a workout twice is week is a great place to start. Some examples include pushups, squats or lifting weights.
  3. Flexibility exercises are often either overlooked or overdone. If a muscle is short, we need to stretch it but if a muscle is already long, over stretching it can increase our risk of injury. How we stretch and when we stretch is also of great importance. Pre-exercise we should consider dynamic stretching that incorporates active muscle activation in lengthened positions but post exercise when our bodies are warm, relaxed passive stretching has its ever important role.
  4. Balance exercises are great fun! They are however much more important and complex than most people understand. You need good balance to do just about everything, including walking and leaning forward to tie your shoes. Balance also has a large role to play in injury prevention particularly in people with “wobbly” ankles. Balance training involves strengthening the muscles that keep you upright (core and legs). Some examples include standing on a bosu ball, certain yoga poses or simply closing your eyes while standing on one leg.

Along with all the different kind of exercise, each one of us has a different amount of physical activity we do each day. This is comprised of sports activity, habitual activity and work-related activity, and each have a particular influence on our overall physical fitness and health status (Steffen et al, 2017). We all know that exercise and getting moving is important, but why?

Exercise has great benefits; mind body and soul. The link between an increase in activity and a decrease in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well as Diabetes Type 2, Cancer and Osteoporosis has been well researched, and the good news is, the results are great no matter how small a change is made. Even if you already have some kind of CV Disease, low resistance exercise can still help. How? Time for science; decrease body fat composition, improve glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance, decrease blood pressure, improve autonomic tone, decrease inflammation, improve coronary blood flow and improved cardiac function (Warburton et al, 2006). And it doesn’t stop there…

Exercise also helps with psychological wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety and depression; three of the most commonly used words in our modern-day society. Exercise doesn’t just distract us from all the things on our worried minds, it actually releases ‘happy hormones’ or neurochemicals into our bodies. The big ones being endorphins, dopamine, and Norepinephrine. These chemicals are associated with better cognitive functioning, alertness and elevated moods. In addition to dumping feel good chemicals into your head, it also helps purge stress hormones from your body (The Brain Flux, 2018).

Physiotherapy and exercise go hand in hand. We love using fun and exciting techniques to get our bodies exercising and functioning at their full potential. Every movement in our body is carried out by a specific arrangement of muscle activity and when one muscle isn’t functioning as it should be, it interferes with the way we carry out these “normal” movements thus causing pain or stiffness. As physiotherapists, we prescribe specific, individualised exercises that targets these problem areas and help correct the current movement dysfunction. We also use exercise prescription in injury prevention strategies which comes down to treating the cause and not simply the current symptoms.

While physiotherapists focus mainly on the rehabilitation of very specific muscle groups in order to promote symmetry and correct muscle imbalances, we always encourage our patients to lead healthy, active lives. The next time your energy levels are at an all-time low, or your physiotherapist has sent you home with a set of rehabilitation exercises, I hope this has aided in boosting those motivation levels and acted as a simple reminder to “just do it” and get busy moving Glasgow!