A book about exercise for people who don’t do exercise
In my work as an osteopath, I speak to people with chronic pain and a whole range of health conditions. I often hear comments like:
“I know I should do more exercise, but I don’t know where to start”, or
“People keep telling me about the benefits of exercise, but I just hate it. I want to like it, but I really don’t”, or
“I always feel better if I do something, but I can’t seem to find the energy these days.”
People with almost any kind of chronic mental or physical ill health will, at some point, have heard a (hopefully) well meaning person tell them that they just need to exercise more. “Have you tried yoga?” is such a cliche that it’s become a joke in various online communities. This highlights the lack of understanding that people with chronic illness often experience from those around them. If you’re not a person who finds exercise easy or natural, it can be infuriating trying to explain why these suggestions aren’t helpful.
Although it’s not the cure-all that enthusiasts sometimes portray it as, at least some of the time exercise really can help. (But if you’re in pain, don’t overdo it!) The catch – and it’s a big one – is that it may also be the very last thing you feel like doing. To someone who isn’t confident with exercise and already feels rubbish, the barriers to just getting started can feel insurmountable.
This is where “Work It Out” comes in. If you’re the sporty type who’s already comfortable and confident exercising, this probably isn’t the book for you. It’s written for people who are fed up with being told they should do some exercise, perhaps already understand the benefits in theory, but are struggling to get going. It might be that you’ve hated everything you’ve tried in the past, or that you feel awkward and uncomfortable going to a gym because you’ve no idea what to do and the learning curve feels intimidating. Perhaps everything that people suggest seems way too hard.
The book contains examples of lots of different types of exercise that you could try, if they appeal to you. Each section explains where to start, and highlights the important points to focus on. Many of them are things you can do at home with absolutely no special equipment or workout gear. It doesn’t assume any prior knowledge, and also challenges many of the preconceptions people often have about exercise.
The format is easy to follow and there are clear headings, lists and flow charts to help you navigate quickly to the best options for you. This makes it easy to dip in and out and to skip through bits that are less relevant to you.
One of the things I love about this book is how genuinely non-judgemental it is. It doesn’t tell you what you should do, and it doesn’t lecture. It gives lots of options, and explains why some people might find each approach helpful. The tone is encouraging without being patronising, Nor does it take itself too seriously. Although packed with information it’s nonetheless easy to read, and the tone is friendly and lighthearted.
One of my favourite aspects of my job is helping people to discover activities they enjoy, that they might not previously have thought of as exercise. These activities can be as individual as my patients are. I always emphasise that there is no one “best” kind of exercise that works for everyone, but that there are many different options that you can try. Sarah’s book is a useful resource that I’ve found myself recommending quite a few times. If you recognise yourself in anything I’ve said here, then you may also want to take a look!