Returning to Physical Activity After a Long Period of Inactivity
There are many reasons individuals may experience a long period of inactivity, such as recovering from an illness or injury. When ready to return to physical activity, there are several steps that should be taken to avoid injury, experience the greatest benefits, and stay motivated.
The following steps can help with transitioning to a safe and positive experience when returning to physical activity after a long period of inactivity.
- Talk to a health care professional first. When returning to physical activity, individuals should check with a medical professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist. They can determine if physical activity is safe and provide suggested exercises to help prevent injuries or setbacks.
- Manage expectations. Individuals should not begin with the same level of physical activity occurring before the break. Inactivity contributes to decreased stamina, endurance, and strength. Reducing expectations when returning to physical activity can help prevent frustration and disappointment.
- Ease back into physical activity. Individuals should gradually begin physical activity again. This includes intensity, duration, and frequency of the activity. For example, instead of running, an individual should start by walking. Beginning with 30 minutes of activity may be too strenuous and cause increased pain; however, beginning with five or ten minutes is reasonable. Instead of exercising five days per week, aim for two or three days each week. Easing back into activity helps prevent injuries and establishes a sustainable practice of regular physical activity. Individuals may also want to try chair-based or bed-based physical activities.
- Stick with it. It can be discouraging when results from physical activity do not appear overnight. Sticking to habits and noticing small signs of progress over time can help.
- Listen to the body. While it is normal to experience soreness or tiredness when returning to physical activity, it is possible to do too much physical activity too soon. Individuals should be alert for signs of an injury or overexertion, such as new pain or unusual fatigue. If rest and decreased intensity of physical activity do not relieve these symptoms, a medical professional should be consulted.