Find your own way to being more active

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It’s ok to hate exercise, say physiotherapists in a provocative new public health campaign.

Hours at a gym or long distance running on the road aren’t for everyone. But people must still find other ways to be active and challenge their body through activities like dancing, gardening and even playing the drums, argues the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

‘Love Activity, Hate Exercise?’ explores the strong emotions evoked by the word ‘exercise’ after focus groups with patients and physiotherapists found many people with long-term conditions want to be more active but are put off by the thought of exercise.

Whether it’s memories of not getting picked to be on the school football team, concern about discomfort, worrying what you’re going to look like or simply not knowing where to start, exercise can be a daunting prospect for some of us.

However if you are living with a long-term condition and the symptoms that come with it, such as fatigue and reduced mobility, it can feel like an impossibility.

It’s unsurprising therefore that in a poll of people aged 40-70 with conditions such as arthritis, asthma and heart disease, nearly a third (31%) reported that they were totally inactive each week.

The CSP says physiotherapists across the UK have great potential to help these people to become more active by identifying the barriers at play and giving people the expert advice and confidence to try new activities, whatever their physical condition might be.

The campaign comes at a crucial time given research estimates over 2 million Britons will be living with four or more chronic illnesses within 20 years due to time spent living a sedentary lifestyle.

Prof Karen Middleton, Chief Executive of the CSP, said:

“The benefits of exercise are many and well-established and if you love it, then fantastic – do as much as you can as often as you can. But many find the thought of exercise terrifying and become inactive as a result, ultimately to the detriment of their health.

“We need to get across to people that they can improve their health and wellbeing by being active in different ways, as long as they are pushing themselves and strengthening their muscles.

“It’s never easy to take that initial step but by finding an activity you enjoy and that you’re able to do regularly, you are already halfway there.”

Working with people to put activity goals in place for the future would help to alleviate the anxiety over half (53%) said they felt about their health deteriorating and missing out on doing the things they love (52%).

Doing so would also potentially ease mounting pressures on the NHS. For example, people with long-term conditions now account for about 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of all outpatient appointments and over 70% of all inpatient bed days. (ii)

Diane Dyer, aged 57 from Essex was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at the age of 45. She had been experiencing pain on a daily basis and went to the doctors after her legs were left constantly feeling like she had run a marathon.

“I have good and bad days but I was told yoga would help with my symptoms of Fibromyalgia and it really has.

“I also really enjoy Zumba so I go once a week with my friend; it’s a great opportunity to catch up with her and do some exercise.

“There are younger people in the class who jump around a lot more than me but I’m in my late 50’s so it’s important I take it at my own pace.

“I would encourage anyone who doesn’t do much activity to choose something they enjoy, start slow and build up.

“Sometimes you feel tired and it’s the last thing you want do but the important thing is to stick with it, and you do see the benefits over time.”