Ready to move?

Shoulder pain, a bout of infection or long recuperation after surgery – sometimes you just can’t move comfortably, and your fitness drops dramatically. Here’s how to get going again

Movement for Good Health on 10 May is the only time in the year when we celebrate a very simple joy: our miraculous body’s ability to move freely and comfortably. For those of us whose bodies are unhappy or in pain because movement has not been possible for a long time, it may be the day you want to start changing that. But it feels hard!

“Getting into a habit of moving, of pushing your body a little bit, can feel impossible if you’ve badly lost your physical condition for some reason or other,” says Professor Witness Mudzi, President of the South African Society of Physiotherapy. “Start by consulting a physiotherapist, who is an expert in both healthy and unfit bodies. She or he can assess your level of fitness and any obstacles to exercise (like a healing injury or a build-up of abdominal fat), and figure out ways to start moving that will be doable and even pleasant.”

The usual recommendation is that people do around two and a half hours of exercise a day. That in itself is not enough to make you a really fit person – you need to be doing as much moving during your daily life as possible too (taking stairs instead of escalators or lifts, walking around the office, gardening, playing with children and the like). For many people, expanding their level of movement needs to start slow, with a gradual build up.

“If all you can do is walk to the end of the block and back, do that twice a day,” says Professor Mudzi. “Soon you’ll be doubling and trebling the distance. The renewed power and comfort you feel will be enough incentive to push you through till you’re doing a few hours a week.”

Ideally, you should choose to focus on activities which give you pleasure – those are the things we stick to.

  • Walking with a dog or a loved one.
  • Gardening, if you can manage to get down on your knees.
  • Dancing – stick to slow dancing such as learning formal ballroom dancing!
  • Gentle cycling expeditions.
  • Tai-chi is a gentle pursuit which gives a surprising workout.
  • If your physiotherapist gives you a programme of exercises to do, try to make time for them every day – they will be tailored to suit your specific circumstances and strengthen selected muscles that will help you improve.

“Don’t obsess about exercise,” says Professor Mudzi. “If you fall off the wagon one day, you can climb back on the next. Just keep pursuing your goals of getting fitter and moving more, and you’ll feel your body transforming day by day.”

For more information, or to find a physiotherapist near you, go to