Sunday, June 13, 2010

Health and Wellness Tip of the Day- Know the Goal for your Exercise

Failure to plan is planning to fail.

One simple tip that can improve the quality of your exercise program, whether it is a formal physical therapy program, or just a general workout, is to ask one simple question before you exercise- what is my goal with this exercise today?

This can make a huge difference in that quality of your experience, and doesn't require any more time.

1. Taking a walk.  Many of us take a walk at lunch.  Before you do, ask yourself- "what is my goal?"  It may be to get in some movement in the middle of the day, it may be to clear your thoughts, it may be to get some much-needed sun exposure.  By asking the question, it let's you judge whether you met your goal.

I find this helps me quite a bit.  I am often super-busy in clinic, but will try to find time for a 20 minute walk outside.  At the end of the walk, I can look back and say "I was able to make some for myself, got in some exercise, listened to a podcast, and saw some sunshine.  That was awesome."

2. Physical Therapy.  When you are in a Physical Therapy program, ask the therapist what the goal is for each exercise you are performing.  This will help you set a goal for those exercises, and determine whether you are meeting those goals.

One of the most common reasons patients are referred to me is because they "failed" physical therapy.  Often times, they are performing the proper exercise, but they don't know why they are doing an exercise, and therefore don't pay attention to whether they are doing it properly.

One common example is exercises for a tendinopathy, like Achilles tendinitis or Tennis Elbow.  There are many exercises one might do, but the most important exercises are typically repetitive eccentric loading.  I'll ask the patient to show me what they are doing, and they may be doing 6 different exercises, and not realizing that not all of the exercises are of equal importance.

For this very reason, when I give my patients an exercise prescription, I try to emphasize 1, or at most 2, exercises at a time.  I think it's far more important to do one targeted exercise well and with purpose then to go through the motions with 10 exercises.
Bottom line- you are all busy people, so if you are going to take the time to exercise every day (which you should), make those exercises count!

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