How to Exercise When It Hurts
Exercise is a crucial defense against many diseases and has many additional benefits, stronger bones, longer life expectancy, confidence boosting, and stress relieving. Exercise does more than improve physical health. It gives us the strength to pick up our grandchildren and the endurance to participate in fun activities like hiking and tennis. But if you are dealing with muscle or joint pain that doesn't seem to go away, the ability to exercise is challenging. It can be hard to motivate yourself to continue even when you understand the benefits. So what are your options?
Am I Safe to Exercise?
First, ask your physician or physical therapist if it is safe for you to exercise. You may be surprised to hear that there are very few exercises you should avoid. For most muscle and joint pain, exercise is safe and even recommended. Ph.D. Susan Bartlett from John Hopkins Arthritis Center shares, "Physical activity is essential to optimizing both physical and mental health and can play a vital role in the management of arthritis. Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, decrease bone loss and may help control joint swelling and pain. Regular activity replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint and reduces stiffness and pain. Exercise also helps to enhance energy and stamina by decreasing fatigue and improving sleep."(HopkinsArthritis.org)
Hurt Does Not Equal Harm
Pain is part of maintaining our health. When our pain receptors are working effectively, pain is a valuable way for our bodies to let our brains know that there is a threat to our overall well-being. However, sometimes pain stops playing a protective role and ceases to be an effective indicator that something is wrong. In essence, the pain alarm becomes overprotective. This is important to understand when exercising. Exercising may still be safe when you are sore or dealing with pain. Hurt does not always equal harm. We recommended asking your physician or physical therapist first what exercises are safe.
The best exercise is one you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you will likely stick with it. Don't choose something you think you should do. If you hate running but have heard it improves your heart's cardiovascular fitness, choose another activity like swimming, riding a bike, rowing, or kickboxing that also improves cardiovascular fitness.
According to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Each week adults need 150 minutes or moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening.
Start a New Routine
Whatever form of enjoyable exercise you choose, begin slowly. The risk of injury and burnout is greatest as your health journey begins, especially if you have been leading a more sedentary lifestyle. Once you have had a few weeks of showing up and exercising consistently, it's time to start pushing on to get the most benefit from your time and effort. Try a new walking route, a heavier weight, or an aerobics class. Get out of your comfort zone.
Dealing With the Pain
You don't need to avoid pain; if you've checked with your physician or physical therapist, you can be confident in your exercise choice. We recommend the following rule: Exercise within tolerable pain that plateaus during exercise and decreases once you have finished. Tolerable pain is something you can cope with and is manageable. You should feel in control.
Exercise is a key defense against many diseases, including heart disease and stroke. It boosts our confidence and lessens our stress. If you are starting your health journey or struggling with pain, come see us. We can guide you on what exercises are beneficial and which ones to avoid. We also offer personal training and Sierra Vista Beats, a group resistance and cardio class that provides an individualized experience through heart rate monitoring. You will optimize your efforts and learn when to push yourself and when to recover, ensuring that every minute of your workout counts.