One of the most important components of Physiotherapy treatment is exercise prescription. Just as a medicine is prescribed to help with a condition, Physiotherapists are qualified to prescribe safe and effective exercises for you to complete at home.
Above everything else, exercise has been found to be the most effective treatment for a huge range of conditions. Whether you are suffering from a sports injury, a stiff back, arthritis, dislocation, recovery from surgery or a repetitive strain injury, we guarantee exercise will be able to help. The only bad exercise is the one not being done! (Cheesy sorry).
When you come in for your appointment we will do a detailed history and assessment. We then know which exercises are the best for you. We will teach them to you and send the program to you via email after the session.
However, the effort then passes from us to you. We have given you all the tools but no one can do the exercises for you!
This is often where we see problems developing.
“How often have you been doing your exercises?” “Ummmmmm”
“Can you show me your exercises?” “Errrrrrrrrrr”
Sound familiar? Well you are not alone. It’s not that our patients don’t want to do their exercises, the struggle is trying to fit them in to already hectic schedules. Even when physios keep the number of exercises low, the compliance can still be lacking. But fear not! After years of prescribing exercises, we have learnt a few tricks based on habit psychology, to make this process easier for you. Trust us when we say the exercises WORK. Here are a few steps to take to make doing them 10x easier.
1 Implementation intention
This term refers to making a plan beforehand about what you will do, where you do it and when. It has been shown that individuals who formulate a plan for when they will do a certain activity, are more likely to stick to it. We do not simply mean saying to yourself “I will do my exercises every day”. This plan needs to be specific but can only take a few moments to plan. Either pop a note in your diary or write it on some paper.
An example would be; “I will complete my physio exercises for at least 5 minutes on [DAY], at [TIME] in [PLACE]. This simple act means you have allocated some time and you are taking proactive steps to improve the chances of these exercises becoming a routine.
2. Habit stacking
This is a continuation of the first step. You can take planning to the next level by attaching the new habit (your exercises) to an activity you already do everyday. This way, you’ll learn to pair your exercises with an already well developed habit.
Some examples may include: “Once I have brushed my teeth in the morning, I will do my calf stretches before I leave for work”
“When I log out of my PC for lunch, I will take a short walk and do my shoulder stretches”
“Once I finish my dinner, I will do my back exercises before I shower”
“On a Friday when I work from home, I will go swimming after I have dropped the kids to school”
3. Be patient and trust the process
We can all be impatient when it comes to injury. However, rehab is often not a quick process and it can have ups and downs. Your exercises are a habit and habits are the main components of self-improvement. Just as the way interest multiplies in a savings account over time, the positive effects of your exercises will multiply over time.
We can be very quick to give in when we do not see results quickly. Similarly we can dismiss small changes when they do not seem to matter in the moment. Example: “My leg doesn’t hurt as much but I still can’t run, the rehab is not working”. Be sure to understand the process your body is going through and keep consistent with the rehab. If you have any questions regarding this, you can always ask your Physiotherapist. We will always explain the pathology and why injuries can take time to heal. Make notes of all the positives. These will soon add up and you”ll start seeing serious improvements!
4. Tell people about your rehab
We all work better in an encouraging and positive environment. Be sure to share your rehab plans with family, friends and colleagues. This can be hugely beneficial. It may be simply having your partner remind you (“Have you done your exercises today?”) or having a friend go to the gym with you for extra motivation. It is also a good time to share your concerns or questions about your injury. It is amazing once you start talking to people, how many have experienced a similar thing to you. It will always feel better discussing this with people close to you, rather than a random and often detrimental forum on Dr. Google (just avoid at all costs, trust me).
5. Implement steps to help your future self
Every habit is initiated by a cue. If this cue stands out, we are more likely to do it. You are unlikely to do your exercises if you resistance band is tucked away in a drawer in the spare room. We can make small changes to our environment, in order to make doing exercises more likely.
An example would be: If you plan to do your exercises in the kitchen in the morning (implementation) whilst the kettle is boiling (habit stacking), leave the resistance band next to the kettle ready (environment change).
… And there you have it! 5 simple steps to try and make your exercises easier. If you have been struggling (this can be with exercise in general) try to implement these steps. We advise taking a few moments and writing down a plan on your phone or in your diary.
Remember, small changes add up over time to big changes. Be patient and trust the process!
Thanks for reading and email us anytime for further guidance.