Sticking to Your Rehab is never easy… you need to get your head round it!
Sticking to a physiotherapy home-plan can be very hard. Some people are great at doing their “homework”, but as many as 65% of people struggle, according to research. People may underestimate just how difficult it is to change any kind of behavior. However, many physiotherapists say that the work you do at home is at least as important as the time spent at the clinic. So it is important to address the motivational side to ensure that you are successful. Here are some tips on making your exercise regime a reality.
1. What do you stand for?
Identifying a meaningful, long term purpose can be powerful – whether that is playing with your kids, going on a hiking holiday with your partner, or doing your first 5K run. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy places your values and living mindfully at the heart of wellbeing and mental health. When you are fully present and connect your daily exercise regime with what matters to you (e.g. with the values of “living actively” or “being a good partner”) you are far more likely to engage in values-driven committed action – this can help you stay motivated.
2. Plan ahead
Deciding when you are most likely to do your prescribed exercises and putting this in your smartphone calendar as a repeated event, with a prompt to alert you beforehand eliminates the chance that you will forget to do it. The added benefit of this method is that your smartphone will let you know if you are trying to book something in at a time that clashes with your exercise.
3. Make the most of the mornings
Exercising first thing in the mornings can be a useful strategy as, for many of us, the day only gets more hectic as the hours go by. Take advantage of the power of association by laying your clothes out (and any equipment needed) the night before. When you rise and see everything ready to go, your mind will be less likely to make excuses.
4. Limit screen time
Before sitting down to watch something on TV for an hour, consider setting an alarm for 30 minutes. As soon as it goes off, get up and do your exercises. It is easy for us to convince ourselves that we do not have time to exercise, whilst somehow still finding time for our daily fix of Netflix!
5. Find pockets of time in the day
Combining physiotherapist exercises with other routine activities can be a big time saver. A recent study by Cardiff University found that the main barrier that people gave for taking up any sort of regular exercise was work-life commitments. But the reality is that most physiotherapy exercises don’t take more than 5-10 minutes per day. So why not look at a typical day’s schedule and see if you can spot pockets of time in the day when you can fit in the exercises. This might include multi-tasking such as doing arm exercises whilst talking to your partner or doing leg lifts whilst drying your hair.
6. Think Small
It is easy to get carried away when we are setting goals for behavior change. Paradoxically, though, reaching your goals can be far more effective if we aim small. The authors of the recent book Think Small work within the government’s Behavioural Insights’ Team. They suggest a range of strategies that increase an individual’s adherence to a goal, including the following:
- Breaking your goal into manageable steps
- Deciding on the “what, when and how” in advance (“what exercise will I do?”, “when will I do it?”, and “how will I ensure it happens?”)
- Considering ways of making it easy for you to do the things you need to do to reach your goal (e.g. getting off a stop before you usually do on your way to work and walking briskly)
- Making your goal public knowledge (e.g. writing down your intention to exercise somewhere in your home so everyone can see it and hold you to account!)
7. Be honest
It may sound obvious, but being totally honest with your physiotherapist can really help. If you are struggling to do the suggested exercises, then just let them know. They understand that behavior change is hard and they won’t judge you. Instead they will help you to identify and overcome these barriers so that you can move forwards more effectively.
Dr. Joel Sheridan – Clinical Psychologist
Abdi, A (2017) Barriers to Running Revealed. Retrieved from https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/research/news/challenge-cardiff Harris, Russ (2008). The Happiness Trap. Robinson Publishers. Miller, A.M. (2015, Aug). How to stick to your physical therapy “homework”. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com Service, O. & Gallagher, R. (2017). Thinking Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals. Michael O’Mara Publishers.
Sluijs, E.M. & Kok, G.J., & Van der Zee, J. (1993). Correlates of exercise compliance in physical therapy. Phys Therapy, Nov, 73(11), 771-86.