To fight chronic pain you have to get moving. Sitting or lying around won’t get you anywhere. A sedentary lifestyle will increase your pain while boosting your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
You’ve got to move. But don’t focus on “exercise.” At first, it’s not about how much, how far, or how many reps.
What’s important first of all is enjoying the simple pleasure of body movement.
Here are some ideas you can try.
- Enjoy a pleasant walk through your neighborhood or in a nearby park. Don’t quantify how many minutes or how many yards you walk. Instead, enjoy the rhythm your legs fall into as you effortlessly move through the landscape. Notice your chest rising and falling with each breath. Pay attention to how lightly your head can balance on your neck – free to turn right or left as it will.
- Check a yoga book out of the library, then find a quiet room and spread a blanket or mat on the floor. Study a simple pose. Then enter fully into the experience of the pose, noticing your breathing, the muscles that respond, and the areas of resistance or limitation. Don’t judge yourself by comparing yourself to the pictures in the book – just experience what it’s like to be inside your body.
- Watch people on the street walk by, then try to imitate their walks. Laugh about it. Open your own Ministry of Silly Walks. (Don’t remember Monty Python? Check it out on Youtube)
- If you have young children, read them a storybook and act out some of the parts.
- Snowshoe through quiet woods in winter.
- Play some of your favorite tunes and dance in the privacy of your own home. Experience your pelvis swinging right and left or forward and back. Note the rising and falling of your body weight as you bend and straighten your knees, or as you shift your weight from the right foot to the left and back again. See the path in space your body makes as you circle around the room. Improvise.
- Wiggle your toes. Be silly. Blow soap bubbles and chase after them.
- Take a t’ai ch’i class.
You may find that some body parts “talk back to you” as you get your body moving through space. Don’t ignore signals of pain, if that’s in fact what they are. Don’t persist with a movement if it seems to hurt. But give your body a chance to work through some of the kinks, too.
Be gentle with yourself, but be guided by the unshakeable goal of getting your body into gear and enjoying the experience.
Rediscovering the joy of simple movement — that’s Step 5 of Dr. Lavine’s Ten Step Program to Conquer Chronic Illness.
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