How can I exercise when I’m already in pain?

If you haven’t exercised for a long time and you spend much of your life sitting down, be it at a desk or slumped over a steering wheel, you may find that you are tight in your shoulders and hips and lower back.

One of the main reasons why you feel these aches though is due to your lack of movement.  Your body is forced to hold the same static position day after day.  Muscles around your chest will shorten and tighten whilst muscles in your upper and mid back lengthen and weaken leaving you with rounded shoulders.  Long term, this could lead to breathing problems.

Sitting all day leads to shortened and tight hip flexors which can pull your pelvis into a tilted position.  This tilted position affects your hip stability and can cause all sorts of lower back aches. Your glutes (your butt muscles) switch themselves off and rely on other muscles to do their jobs.  This adds to the pain you may feel in your hips and lower back. 

Start with something easy

As you can see, sitting can lead to a whole host of issues.  If the thought of starting an exercise programme when you have these aches and pains fills you with horror, then start with something easy.

Walking is the best form of exercise.  Anyone can do it and you don’t need any special knowledge or equipment.  Get your body used to moving again by introducing more walks into your day. 

If you do next to nothing in forms of physical activity, it is recommended that you aim for at least 10,000 steps a day.  If this seems like a lot to start with, then aim for 5,000 steps.  If you don’t have a pedometerbut have an iphone - most iphones carry the Health app which counts steps for you.  Alternatively, you can use minutes spent walking as your guide.  

How will I manage 5,000 steps?

You may surprise yourself and find 5,000 easily achievable if you look for steps. 

 Take the stairs as opposed to the lift.

Take the stairs as opposed to the lift.

  • If you drive to work, park your car in the furthest spot from the entrance.  This allows you to accumulate steps every time you have to walk to and from the car.
  • If you use public transport, get off a stop earlier than you normally do.
  • Where you have the option of taking a lift or stairs, use the stairs.  You don’t need to race up the stairs, take them at your own pace.  You’ll not only be strengthening your heart and lungs, you will be strengthening muscles in your lower body.
  • If your colleague is a few desks away, rather than email them, walk over and have a chat.  This is also great for improving relationships in the workplace.
  • Do you spend your lunch breaks on your computer?  Make yourself take a break and go for a walk around the block.  Not only will you accumulate steps but getting fresh air away from your desk will refresh your mind and awaken your senses.

Unless you love your desk so much you can’t leave it behind for an extra minute or two, there are plenty of ways to reach your daily steps target. You just have to look for opportunities.  A client of mine would deliberately visit the toilets on a different floor. 

You or your job – what’s more important?

Some people may say “but I am too busy.  I really cannot lose an extra minute walking to XYZ” this may be true, you are busy, but what’s more important – the project you are working on or your health and how your body feels?

You need your body to be working efficiently in order for you to function in your job. If you are riddled with aches and pains and tense muscles, this will eventually show in how you perform at work.  Chronic pain may eventually lead to you needing to take time off.

Benefits of walking

Walking brings many benefits, here are just a few.  You will strengthen your heart  - if you have a high heart rate, overtime this will fall as you heart becomes stronger and is able to pump more blood around your body. You’ll strengthen your muscles, particularly those in your lower body.  You’ll burn off excess fat you’re carrying through the increased activity and the muscle you have developed from walking.  You’ll feel more energised and able to do more.

As you feel able to do more, you should increase the duration and distances you walk and take on more challenging walks such as hills.  You may have started by walking 10 minutes without a break, then moved to 15, 20 and so on.  Eventually you’re walking comfortably for an hour or more. 

Walking is an easy way to start exercising no matter how old you are.  It’s never too late to improve your health and fitness.  If you want advice and support in starting an exercise programme, feel free to drop me a line.