Different types of exercise
Different types of exercise provide specific benefits for your health and work your body in different ways. Selecting different types of exercise will allow you to build your flexibility, strength, and cardio capacity, rather than focusing all of your energy on one aspect of your physical health. Incorporating different types of activities into your exercise regime also gives you more choices on days that you might be feeling less energetic. Talk to your physiotherapist or another exercise expert before starting a new exercise regime.
Warm-Up and Cool-Down
Your body needs a few minutes to prepare for the stretching and muscle contractions that happen during more vigorous activity. A warm-up before you begin your exercise helps increase your heart rate and breathing, and increase blood flow to the muscles to prepare them for the activity you are about to begin. A warm-up will help protect you from injury and makes it easier for your body to transition to more vigorous activities. It also prepares you mentally.
Your body also needs a few minutes to transition back to a more restful state when your physical activity is done. A cool-down allows your heart rate and breathing to return to resting levels at a gradual rate. It also reduces the chance that you will feel faint or dizzy after exercise, by allowing a gradual change in blood flow from the large muscles. The practice of cooling down after exercise means slowing down your level of activity gradually. Too often, the cool-down at the end of a session is neglected, but it is just as important as the warm-up and the activity itself. A cool-down is especially important after vigorous exercise because the body needs time to slow down. The cool-down should occur immediately after training activities and should last 5 to 10 minutes.
Flexibility exercises focus on improving range of motion in muscles or joints. These exercises incorporate stretches across joints, and along muscles, and are usually held for longer periods of time. Flexibility is important for ensuring that your muscles and joints have full range of motion, which will allow you to move in the most efficient patterns. Flexibility also protects your joints from uneven pressure and stresses that can contribute to pain and injury. Stretching is very important. It can give you greater flexibility and less pain. Make sure to gently warm-up before you start moving.
Before incorporating stretches into your physical activity routine, consult with your physiotherapist to see if there are specific stretches that they recommend, or ones that you should avoid
Cardiovascular (Aerobic) Exercises
Cardiovascular fitness is the ability of your heart and lungs to provide oxygen to your muscles. Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of your body to do an activity like swimming or walking for an extended period of time. Fitness and endurance are important for everyone, and especially for young people with persistent pain.
Cardiovascular exercises build your fitness and endurance, and improve your overall health. For example, regular aerobic activities: (1) improve the health of your heart and blood vessels; (2) improve your cholesterol; and (3) reduce the risk of heart disease. They also improve blood sugars, reducing the risk of diabetes, and improve metabolism to help you maintain a healthy weight. Aerobic exercise gives you the capacity to be active and stay active for longer periods of time. By building your cardiovascular fitness and endurance, you will be able to participate in the activities you want to do for as long as you want to do them, rather than being limited by fatigue and tiredness. Aerobic exercise also helps improve your mood and sleep quality.
Strengthening exercises build your muscle and bone strength. These exercises enable your muscles to push, pull, or hold more weight. Strengthening exercises also build stronger bones, reducing the risk of breaking a bone or developing weak bones (e.g. osteoporosis, osteopenia) when you are older. Improving your strength will allow you to do more activity for a longer period of time.
Generally speaking, people with pain will benefit from using lighter weights with higher repetitions. A good starting point may be 10 repetitions of an exercise, a brief rest (e.g. 2 minutes), and then a second set of 10. Remember to start at a very low weight and build up from there. The most important thing to remember is to do controlled movements in a balanced, stable position. Your back and stomach muscles need to be held firm while you move your arms and legs. Your neck should stay comfortably still during movements. Do strengthening exercises three to five times per week. This is the type of routine that will help improve your bone and muscle strength and endurance. You do not need to work with heavy weights to get benefits. Anything that you are able to do is better than nothing! You may want to rotate your exercises so you are not doing the same exercises every day. For example, on Monday you might focus on your arms, and then Tuesday, focus on your legs in order to give your arms a rest. Or you might focus on one or two of the most important exercises for a period of time and then focus on others later. Look at what your goals are and what exercises can help you to meet these goals.
Every activity requires the ability to balance (hold the body steady or hold some parts steady while others move). Balance exercises improve the ability of your muscles and tendons to be able to hold you steady while you do activities by improving the coordination, strength, and steadiness of your muscles. Balance exercises also train your muscles to respond quickly to any unexpected changes, such as a slippery or wobbly surface. Balance exercises can reduce the risk of injuries from falling.
Participating in sports, and other leisure activities, is an important part of life for many people. Sports often include elements of flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and endurance, strengthening, and balance. Most importantly, they are fun! Sports also help you to have a healthy, active lifestyle, although they do NOT take the place of specific, therapeutic exercises that have been prescribed to you by your healthcare team. If it is difficult for you to participate in certain sports, try to select low impact sports that are less likely to cause an increase in pain (e.g. swimming or cycling).
Balancing School, Work, and Leisure Activities
You have a lot going on in your life, and if you spend too much energy trying to do one thing, then you may feel too tired to participate in other activities. Think about what is most important to you, and then work with your health team to figure out ways that you can accomplish these things.