Puzzled about exercise? Caoimhe Bennis

Growing up I always loved puzzles! Practicing physiotherapy is an
extension of this pastime, with muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones
that make up one of the most complicated puzzles of all.

Another puzzle I enjoy is working out what type of exercise will suit
a person and their lifestyle. Every person has a different set of
commitments and time constraints and in particular a different level
of interest in exercise. Having a sore neck or a sore knee is a
wonderful way to convince someone to do exercises, particularly when
the exercises help to relieve pain! However, if you are not used to
exercising, finding the motivation to start can be easier said than


The first step is to find your reason to begin! Exercise can help you
– feel good, feel strong, lose weight, and even can reduce levels of
stress and fatigue. Research has also shown that exercising reduces
your risk of having a fall or developing heart disease and dementia.

Maybe some of these reasons capture your interest but I still hear you
ask – “Why start to exercise now when I never have done before?” After
the age of 30, we can lose up to 5% of muscle mass every 10 years! You
can also lose muscle mass after being bed bound for a week or after
changes in hormones through pregnancy or menopause. Losing muscle
mass, leaves you feeling weak and tired just doing your day to day


Taking up exercise doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym, it can be
as simple as organising a walk or a run with a friend each week.
Attending the local swimming pool for a swim or aqua-aerobics is a
great way to exercise without high impact on your joints. Joining a
class is a nice way to socialise and exercise with some supervision
too – some classes in our community include set-dancing, sean-nós
dancing, pilates, yoga, mature movers and martial arts.

Activity guidelines state that you should work on your balance,
flexibility and strength two days a week as well as take part in
moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week or vigorous exercise for 75
minutes a week. Moderate exercise means a brisk walk, mowing the lawn,
dancing or doubles tennis. It will increase your heart rate and make
you feel warmer. Vigorous exercise includes jogging, singles tennis,
energetic dancing and hiking uphill. It will make you feel out of
breath so that you can only say a few words before having to pause for

running competition

If you are unsure how much you are exercising, you can use a smart
phone or a simple pedometer that clips on to your waistband to track
how many steps you are doing in a day. There is no defined number of
steps that you should aim for but 3000 is the equivalent of a day
around the house while 10,000 would be a day that included some
moderate exercise.


If you have never exercised before or it’s been a while, it is best to
check in with your physiotherapist or your doctor before you get
started. As a physiotherapist, I regularly work with people to start
the process of getting strong, fit and improving balance by working
out a home exercise programme that fits into your lifestyle. I hope
that by reading this you will have figured out some of the pieces of
your own exercise puzzle! If you are still in doubt you can reach me
at the Athboy Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic.


By Caoimhe Bennis, chartered physiotherapist 
© 10th January 2020

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