Balancing Exercise and Activity

During a pain flare-up you will likely limit your activities. After a flare-up, it is important to gradually return to a more active life. How much physical activity is appropriate? How much is too much? What type of activity is best? There are no absolute answers for these questions. Each person needs to decide what activities they will engage in to stay healthy and fit. Activity will keep you healthy, physically fit, and safe from injury; it will also help lessen your pain. Different types of activity need to be balanced for optimal fitness. Here are a few suggestions that can help you.


To maintain flexibility in your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, you should stretch daily. This takes only a few minutes and pays off in many ways. You will likely feel better in general, have less pain, have fewer flare-ups, and also be at less risk for injury. In addition, without adequate flexibility, you will not be able to use the correct body mechanics for daily activities, putting you at greater risk for pain or injury.


Maintaining strength in your muscles will allow you to do more with less effort and pain. You will be able to perform activities with safer technique, for example, lifting with your legs, not on your back. Having strong trunk muscles will allow you to keep your back in a comfortable neutral position while engaging in a variety of activities.


Endurance will allow you to maintain activities for longer periods. You can build endurance for any activity – whether it is walking, gardening, or sitting in a chair – simply by gradually performing the activity for slightly longer periods. The result will be greater energy and the ability to participate more in the things you want to do.


Aerobic fitness is accomplished by engaging in activities that moderately raise your heart rate. Such activities include walking, riding a bike, dancing, and working in the yard. We know that this is good for your heart, lungs, and health in general; and it helps you to maintain a proper weight and also releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. It is recommended to consider a balanced program, including activities for flexibility, strength, endurance, and aerobic fitness. Strengthening muscles without proper attention to flexibility could make you feel worse. Similarly, overworking on some muscles while neglecting to strengthen others can cause more problems!

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