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How to increase your activity safely

By Lee Ajzenman, Physiotherapist and Lauren Charlton, Physiotherapist

If you’ve got plans to be more active, the last thing you want is to overdo it and end up on the couch nursing an injury. So here are a few tips to help you increase your activity levels safely.

Always warm up and cool down

Some secrets…

  • warming up and cooling down is exercise too!
  • a warm up followed by nothing, is better than nothing!
  • everything starts somewhere.

Going through the motions of whatever you are about to do in a mindful way counts towards your warm up and cool down. Yippee! So this means walking, boxing or jogging slightly slower than your ’exercise pace‘ at the start and end of the activity.

Doing movements similar to the activity you are about to do, will gradually increase blood flow to the right areas and ’wake up‘ the right parts of the brain. Think of circling your arms gently and mindfully before swimming as an example.

An active warm up and cool down is most effective to prepare the body to safely exercise and reduce injury or pain after exercise. This means traditional stretches like holding a position to stretch a muscle are best done after you have cooled down.

Understand ‘parameters’ and adjust them carefully

When it comes to exercise, a parameter is any variable that can be changed to increase, maintain or decrease the difficulty of the exercise.

This may include speed, resistance, weight, repetitions, total time, rest or hold periods, incline, balance and very importantly, quality of movement.

Your age, current and previous levels of fitness/experience and the type of activity will guide how to progress parameters. Different forms of activity must also be progressed accordingly.


To avoid overuse injuries, develop a greater sense of body awareness and stay motivated—variety is the spice of life!

Mix up surroundings, time of day, type of activity and the company you do it with. Attending guided classes can be helpful to just ‘be told what to do’. Even fitness instructors themselves report motivational fatigue or need guidance around a new activity.

Know your limits

Being told to ‘listen to your body’ or ‘avoid pain’ (when the mere thought of putting on your trainers is painful) can make it hard to hard to gauge how much is too much. Take note of any current or previous injuries you have had and be prepared to ‘under do it’ in the early stages of increasing activity. The key to failure is too much, too fast, too soon.

The same goes for starting new activities. Even if you consider yourself a fair runner, appreciate that swimming or cycling are different activities and slowly learn how your body responds to new challenges.

Seek guidance

You would see an accountant to handle your finances so consider discussing your goals to increase your activity levels with a GP, physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or personal trainer.

Last updated: February 2, 2021 at: 5:03 pm