Do I really have to do these exercises?

November 23rd 2016 |

We get a lot of people in the clinic who do there exercises and they tend to get better but we also have the people who find it difficult to build exercise into their life and they are the people who often don’t get better. We can think about therapeutic exercises in two different ways. They can either help to fix an injury or prevent one from happening. It is much cheaper and easier to prevent one. I often tell my patients that if they do their exercises diligently and come back to tell me they are feeling no different, then I know that I have to fine tune the exercise programme for them. But if they come back and tell me they are not feeling any different but they have not been doing their exercises much of the time then it is no wonder that they don't get any better. We can only tell if an exercise is effective if you do it often enough for it to be effective.

Exercises are designed to achieve different things. One thing that remains the same though is that people choose to either form a new habit of doing their exercises or they form a habit of not doing their exercises. This is a choice or even a subconscious decision someone has made for whatever reason. You can think of habit forming by using an imaginary timeline. Imagine yourself doing your exercises and staying on top of the timeline. If you miss a day and dip below the timeline, it is a blip; no big problem. However, if you start to miss two days then you are starting to form a new habit of not doing your exercises. The exercise then starts to become a negative influence and you start to beat yourself up for not doing it. Negative influences like that don't help people to get any better.

So we know that exercise is given for many different reasons. Some are designed to teach your body how to move more effectively. The ones that teach the body how to move are essentially retraining the brain and nervous system. The brain and nervous system need to be frequently reminded of how to move properly. So If you do them every few days, they wont make any difference as the brain will just continue to move how it always did. These type of exercises need to be done every day for around two minutes for up to eight or nine weeks to be effective. There is good research to support that. Other exercises are designed to stretch a tight muscle. There is research to suggest that holding a stretch for 30 seconds and doing it at least once a day is effective in making a muscle less stiff. There is also some more modern techniques that add stretching with movement. Remember, if you stretch a tight muscle it will not change how you move but if you change how you move it can stretch a tight muscle (a great quote by a well known physiotherapist called Shirley Sahrmann). One thing is clear is that doing one thing too much can cause you to have tight muscles. Sitting too long for example. I think that getting out of that position frequently and doing some stretches periodically through the day makes a lot of sense. Other exercises are designed to get specific muscles working better. There is some evidence to suggest that a muscle needs to be loaded for around two minutes a day to make it work better. That means you need to do your exercises daily.

Research (and experience in dealing with a lot of people) suggests that doing four or possibly up to five exercises a day is the best number for adherence. Too many exercises makes people think it is too big a task and they often do not do any but too little makes people think what's the point and again they often do not do any. That most likely only around 10 minutes of exercises a day (at the most). We can all make a choice to fit this into our daily life to prevent an injury.

So to answer the question, do I really have to do these exercises, it is up to you, but you wont know if they make any difference or not until you try. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on this topic and feel free to share this topic via email or Facebook so that your friends can get the same advice.

Now, I've been sitting here for too long writing this so I'm off to do some stretches. Catch you next time folks.

Ross Smith

Physiotherapist