We often have patients asking us 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 sitting on your couch or at your desk everyday, all day, is the worst thing you can do!
Why is it so important to move?
Our way of thinking about the human body has changed significantly in recent years. Healthcare providers used to see the body the way it is portrayed in anatomy books. These books portray clearly defined lines of muscles, nerves, arteries etc. However, in reality, the human body does not look like that at all. When we expose the layers of the human body, it actually looks like one unit. These layers are held together by a “glue” we call fascia.
So what is fascia?
Fascia is a connective tissue that has the appearance of a spider’s web. This thick, gooey web interconnects and penetrates all our internal structures. It connects all muscles, bones, nerves, arteries and even our organs. The most interesting thing about fascia is that it is a continuous system that physically connects our toes to our head!
When fascia is normal, healthy and “happy”, it moves freely and has the consistency of clear elastic glue. When we get injured or develop pain, the fascia shortens and binds. This changes its consistency to a thick, sticky glue, which ultimately causes a restriction of movement.
When we were toddlers we were very flexible and constantly moving. Yes we fell, we got injured, but we recovered quickly! As adults, we tend to sit for the majority of our day. We don’t move our bodies anymore. Our fascia systems, therefore, get restricted and stiff. When we eventually decide to move, like going for a run, we become injured more easily. Healing may take longer too, because we don’t have the mobility we had as toddlers. Like the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it! This is why regular exercise and stretches are so important.
Here are a few guidelines you can use when you want to start with an exercise program.
Guideline 1: Stretch before getting out of bed
We can learn a lot from children. The first thing a child does when they open their eyes is to stretch and yawn. What they are actually doing is moving their fascia! Sleeping for hours causes our fascia to become more rigid. Movement makes the fascia mobile again.
So, before you get out of bed, S-T-R-E-T-C-H! download our FREE “Wake Up”
Guideline 2: Start Slowly
Whether you are an athlete, or a beginner when it comes exercise, it does not matter. The key to building up your fitness is to start slowly. All types of exercise are safe as long as you don’t experience 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 gradually. During the first week, exercise for 10 minutes 3 times a week. Repeat this for the next 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, slowly increase your time. the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise 3 times per week.
Remember it takes your body at least 6 weeks to start building muscle. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey to better health and movement!
Guideline 3:Listen to your body
Stiffness and muscle soreness are normal after exercise. It takes your body some time to adjust to the new load. If you are very stiff or sore, rather rest and take a few days to recover.
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 to muscle stiffness. Never exercise through pain as this can aggravate an injury. If your pain persists, book an appointment with your physiotherapist before commencing your exercise program.
Physiotherapists are experts in treating sports injuries. We can help promote healing and help you get back to your exercise program as soon as possible.
Guideline 4: Take regular breaks at work
You may ask what this has to do with an exercise program? A study done by Keith et al. 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: Sitting is the new smoking!
It is very important to take regular breaks at work. Try to stretch and move around for 5 minutes every half hour. This will keep your fascia system loose to prevent injuries when you do your normal exercise routine. You can do the same stretches you do in the morning.
Last but not least…
The most important thing is to START! Even if you simply start by doing a few stretches in the morning before getting out of bed. Your fascia will love you for it!