Why you don’t do your exercises

If you’re struggling to do your exercises for back pain (or any other exercises), is it because you don’t remember to do them, or because of inertia (definition: a tendency to do nothing, or to remain unchanged)?

I was just saying to someone the other day, “Don’t feel you have to stand, just because I’m standing.  I prefer standing to sitting, but you carry on with whichever you prefer.”  Afterwards it occurred to me that that’s quite a shift in my attitude – I’ve changed.  Not so long ago I would have automatically sat down, to fit in with what other people are doing.  But, if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I have an issue with sitting – especially prolonged or repetitive sitting.  And so these days, I stand more than most.

The reasons I used to just sit down were “social proof” (- other people are doing it, therefore so should I), and inertia.. just being in “habit/automatic mode”.  American Career and Relationship Counsellor Mel Robbins talks about the brain as either being in automatic pilot or handbrake mode (her TED talk is well-worth a watch – brash, but I like her no-holds-barred style).  Most of us spend a lot of time in automatic mode, occasionally applying the handbrake on ideas that might be worthwhile, but are outside our immediate comfort zone (like getting out of bed as soon as you wake up).

But ask yourself whether what you’re doing is good for you or not.  If you’ve been still for 30 minutes your body is shutting down and bits are seizing up while other bits are fatiguing.  That little niggly discomfort is meant to trigger you to get up and move.  Your exercises can prevent you from seizing up and suffering longer-term pain and disability.  The long-term outcome from many episodes of seizing up or fatiguing is that you will ultimately become unable to do the things that you currently take for granted – your body will be less fit and able than it is now.  Remember “Use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it”?  Physical deterioration is NOT inevitable – it’s a consequence of your habits (and perhaps the odd accident).  Inactivity is more damaging to you than ageing.

I also like Mel’s suggestion to make the 5 second rule work for you, and not against you.  She claims that if you think of doing something and you haven’t done it (or started to do it) within 5 seconds, the chances drop to almost zero that you will actually do it.  Her example is to think of when you were last at a talk/presentation/show and the person running it asked for a volunteer.  If you think of volunteering and haven’t within 5 seconds, you’re very unlikely to do so.  This is definitely a case of Carpe Diem (seize the day).

So, I come full-circle to your exercises… Is it because you never remember, or is it because when you do remember, you think of a bunch of reasons not to do them now, and 5 seconds passes so you miss the opportunity.  My suggestion?  Ponder this… and next time you think about doing your exercises, to borrow another of Mel’s suggestions “Get off your comfortable ass right now, straight away” and DO THEM.

If you’re not sure which exercises you should be doing, give us a ring on 0131 221 1415 or drop me an email

gavin@active-x.co.uk

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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