Gentle exercise is an important part of managing pain. Some people worry that if they exercise they will make their condition worse. Other people aren’t sure where to start because they find their old exercise routine too difficult, or because they have not exercised in the past.
Research shows that gentle exercise is good for people with chronic pain because it:
- improves strength, stamina and flexibility
- improves your overall health
- can benefit your emotional health
- releases endorphins into the system. These are natural pain killers and “feel good” hormones
- helps with balance and coordination
- helps improve sleep
- helps with joint health - our bodies were designed to move.
The best form of exercise is usually the one you enjoy most. This is because you are more likely to stick with it.
Your GP or physiotherapist will advise if there are any specific activities or movements that you should avoid and for how long. For most people with chronic pain it is possible to do any exercise you enjoy. If you are not sure what you will like, try out a few options and see which suits you best.
Choose an activity you enjoy and gradually increase the amount you do. Try to include cardiovascular exercise (activity that increases your heart rate and breathing rate) as well as exercises to improve strength and flexibility. Remember, some discomfort is normal when you return to exercise
It is important start gently. If you do too much this can make your pain flare-up and put you off trying again. Starting slowly means you will increase in confidence and can build on your success. If you do too much to begin with don’t give up. Start again when your pain returns to its usual level and set a more realistic goal.
Enjoyable activity has many physical and emotional benefits. Exercise can include a variety of activities, from going to the gym to dancing to pilates or yoga. It is important to find an activity you enjoy and stick to it to gain maximum benefits.