6 tips to get you motivated about exercising when you're in pain

October 9, 2015

Just because you're in pain doesn't mean you can't exercise. But, when you're in pain, it can often be difficult to get off the couch—follow these tips to get motivated today.

6 tips to get you motivated about exercising when you're in pain

Expert tip

Before you start any exercise program, ask your doctor to check you and your heart to make sure that you're ready for exercise. Got the green light? Let's get you started.

1. Make the commitment

  • No one expects you to sign up for a marathon. The important thing is to get started, and any activity that gets you moving fits the bill.
  • Walk ten minutes at lunchtime, get up from your desk every hour and do a few stretches, start lifting your groceries into the car instead of asking the bagger to do it.
  • Whenever you have a chance to move, do it. Within a few weeks, you will feel like doing more.

2. Think time limit, not speed or distance

  • Initially, it doesn't matter how far or how fast you're moving, but how long. Pretty soon you'll speed up.

3. Be flexible

  • For instance, if you can't walk at first because your knee hurts, try swimming or a stationary bike instead.

4. Write exercise on your calendar

  • Beware of thinking that you'll get to unscheduled exercise at day's end, says Vicki Conn, PhD, RN, FAAN.
  • Conn is associate dean of the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and she specializes in helping chronically ill people exercise. "Who has time left over at the end of the day?"

5. Have a bad-day plan

  • Some days you may feel your pain makes it impossible to move. But don't take to bed. Instead, try doing a little something—even if it's just stretching—suggests Michelle Shufelt, PT, DPT, MS, a physical therapist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Centre for Pain Studies.
  • "Most people have a false belief that you have to get rid of pain first before you can get back to activity. But you need to keep moving so that you use your body's natural pump to get toxins out of the painful area."

6. Put your fears to bed

  • You're in pain, and your doctor is telling you to exercise. For a moment, you suspect he may be joking.
  • Of course, you have fears about exercising when you hurt. It can be done, and it will help you.
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