Make Exercise Fit Your Life… not the other way round!

As an osteopath, I’m often giving exercises, either stretches or strengthening, as ‘first aid’ to help patients out of trouble, but also to prevent problems recurring in the future. Because people are so busy these days, I’ve always tried to find ways my patients can fit simple exercises into their normal day instead of having to find a particular time and place to do them, so that there’s some chance they can fit them into their life and reap the benefits.

Examples might be – stretching shoulder or calf muscles while waiting for the kettle to boil; strengthening the pelvic floor while waiting at the bus-stop or in the supermarket queue (no-one can see you doing them!); turning your core muscles on and off while walking the dog or pushing the buggy or walking the kids to school; doing neck and shoulder stretches while at your PC. Most people find these kind of suggestions really helpful in fitting beneficial exercises into their daily life.

However, when it comes to my own exercise regime, I’m less successful at applying the same principles. I often work long days (12 hours including travelling) and then have things to do at home (chores, cooking, teaching preparation) so I find it really hard to find the time to exercise. If it involves going somewhere to swim/train/take part in a class, I struggle with both time and motivation.

Plus I always have plenty of excuses: swimming – never been again since I bought a pair of goggles and saw what was in public pools; Zumba – too cardiovascularly intense (I have a history of a minor heart problem); running – doesn’t do my left knee cartilage problem any good and besides, I don’t like running in the cold/wet/rain/snow – yes I’m a wimp! Regular classes are hard because my diary is flexible to fit my patients and I struggle to make them regularly; and ‘regularity’ is a really important concept with a new change to one’s routine, because it takes several weeks of repetition to establish a habit.

I tried to think about things I like to do to help motivate me and focus on the things I want to achieve. I love walking and I have a fantastic place to walk at my village clinic location in Newdigate.  But in the winter that involves a lot of mud and a change of clothes, which isn’t exactly convenient in the middle of a clinic day. So, great idea – but it doesn’t fit the practicalities of my working day.

As far as goals, I want to lose weight because I’ve some great dresses I want to wear for a special event later this year – but I know won’t fit into them by simply sitting around. Dieting always loses the first half stone but then I get stuck; I know that changing my metabolism through exercise is a simple way to move that on (I must have lost the same half stone about 4 times now – if I’d lost it sequentially, I’d have made my target weight long ago!).

Another principle to successfully starting something and keeping the habit (apart from motivation, goals and regularity) is making small, easy changes – nothing too radical. I occasionally do a bit of yoga/pilates at home between when I get in and when I eat, which is a good start to fitting my exercise into my day, but I know need to do more, particularly to get a bit of cardiovascular stimulation (which is good for my heart – the fitter it is, the less my problem will affect me).

So I was thinking the other day, what can I do indoors at any time of year, at home or clinic, that’s fun, that won’t hurt my joints, that will get my heart rate up? I was watching BBC this morning and Mike Bushell’s regular segment (where he’s sent off to do some sport for the entertainment of the masses) was on trampolining – and then it struck me – rebounding!

What is rebounding I hear you ask? Rebounding was really popular in the ’70s and 80s after NASA published a paper about how it was more efficient than running for stimulating heart and lungs and increasing oxygen uptake and it’s becoming popular again.  I haven’t looked at the latest research (although I will now, more of which another time). But the idea of bouncing up and down on a small trampoline (inside or outside) to music or while watching TV, with weights to make it harder or just a gentle bounce for health benefits (it’s supposed to help lymphatic drainage) really appealed (and did away with all my excuses too – damn!).

So one E-Bay purchase later, I hope soon to be the proud owner of a portable rebounder – watch out for the videos and posts of my progress on my Facebook page, I can’t wait to share with you how I get on! And the upside is, even if it doesn’t work out for me, my 18 month old grand-daughter (with supervision) will probably love it.

There is another practical point too – as all my patients know, I rarely recommend an exercise or a therapy (or therapist) unless I’ve tried it myself – so I’ll be able to tell any of you who are interested in buying your own rebounder whether it’s worthwhile or not.  Although if I offer to lend you mine, it probably means that it didn’t turn out to be quite as much fun as I imagined….

Look out for my updates on Facebook and comments here – I’m happy to receive yours if you’ve used a rebounder in the past – what did you think of it?