I often have patients that ask me what type of exercise is the best exercise. The answer is really simple. The best exercise is the exercise you enjoy doing! Our bodies are made to move, so to sit on your couch or desk everyday is the worst thing that one can do!
Why is it so important to move?
Our way of thinking about the human body has changed quite a bit in recent years. Health care providers use to see the body as they would when they open their anatomy books. There were clearly defined lines of muscles, nerves, arteries, etc. However in reality the human body does not look like that at all. When you cut it open, it actually looks like one unit. The “glue” that makes it look like one unit is called fascia.
So what is fascia?
Fascia is connective tissue that looks like a spider’s web. It connects the muscles, bone, nerves, arteries and even our organs. It’s a thick gooey web that is interpenetrating everything in our bodies. The most interesting thing about fascia is that it’s a continuous system, that physically connects our toes to our head.
Normal “happy” fascia can move and the majority has the consistency of clear elastic glue, allowing our muscles to move freely. When we have pain or have an injury, the fascia shortens and binds. The consistency changes to a thick, sticky glue and this ultimately restricts movement.
When we were toddlers we were very flexible and we were constantly moving. Yes we fell; we got injured; but we recovered quickly! Adults sit too much and we don’t move anymore. Our fascia systems gets restricted and stiff. When we eventually do go for a run we can injure ourselves easily. It takes long to heal because we don’t have the mobility like we had when we were toddlers. Like the old saying goes, if you don’t use it you will lose it! That is why exercises and stretches are so important.
Here are a few guidelines you can use when you want to start with an exercise program.
Guideline 1: Start with stretches before you climb out of bed
We can learn a lot from kids. The first thing they do when they open their eyes is that they stretch. What they are actually doing is, they are moving their fascia! When we sleep for 8 hours or more our fascia becomes more rigid. Movement makes the fascia mobile again.
Guideline 2: Start Slowly
It does not matter if you are an athlete or someone that has never exercised. The key to building up your fitness is to start slowly. All types of exercise are safe as long as you don’t have pain during the exercise. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, that is easy to access and that you can stick with in the long run.
Start slowly and in a relax manner. During the first week only do your exercise for 10 minutes, 3 times a week. Repeat this for the next 2 weeks. After 2 weeks you can slowly increase your time. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise 3 times a week.
Remember it takes your body at least 6 weeks to start building up muscle.
Guideline 3:Listen to your body
Stiffness and muscle soreness are normal after exercise; especially the days following the exercise session. It takes your body some time to adjust to the new load. If you are very stiff, rather rest and take a few days to recover from the muscle soreness.
If you experience any pain during your exercise you need to stop. Your body will tell you if something is wrong. Pain will feel different from muscle stiffness. Never exercise through pain. Exercising through pain can only make the injury worse. If the pain persists book an appointment at your physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists are experts when treating sport injuries. Physiotherapy help to promote healing and help to get you back to your exercise program as soon as possible.
Guideline 4: Take regular breaks at work
A recent study done by Keith et all 2017 measured the effects that sitting has on your health and mortality. They found that sitting for excessively long periods of time is a risk factor for early death. Hence the saying goes that sitting is the new smoking.
It’s very important to take regular breaks at work. Try to stretch and move around for 5 minutes every 30 minutes.
You can use the same stretches that you do in the morning.
Last but not least…
The most important thing is to START! Even if you just start by doing a few stretches in the morning before you get out of bed. Your fascia will love you for it!