By Jacob Jansen, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Being a physical therapist for more than a decade, I have come to terms with the fact that not all patients will be able to reach their full potential and return to their prior level of function. Recovery after an injury or surgery is difficult and often requires intense physical activity to regain mobility and muscle loss. Despite knowing the importance of physical activity, many do not embrace it in a way to have a meaningful impact. There are several barriers limiting incorporation of daily physical activity into our lives: time, motivation, lack of results, injury, boredom, difficulty; the list goes on. Sadly, for many, failure becomes an option.

The good news is there are things we can do to maximize our chances of success. Each barrier to physical activity has an answer to help overcome it. If a lifetime of independence and mobility is important to you, then you must integrate physical activity into your daily discipline to maximize potential throughout the lifespan.

If there is not enough time, find a way to make some. Start with just 10 minutes of physical activity everyday for two weeks. It will eventually have an impact and grow. As physical challenges start getting easier as a result of the new routine, use this for the motivation to continue growing forming a strong foundation. Lack of results is usually a result of short-sighted vision. Change takes time, and the best and most lasting type of change for the body is slow and steady. Modify goals into smaller subgoals to help create the feeling of continued achievement.

Many people want to rush to get results, but end up derailing their program with chronic soreness, overtraining, and injury. Patience is important to success with an exercise program, as there will be disruptions at some point down the road. Existing injuries may limit full activity. It is important to discuss with your doctor or physical therapist about program modification to avoid exacerbating an existing injury. There are many work-arounds for people with injuries and disabilities, it is just a matter of finding what works and is safe.

Over time, it is possible to lose interest in an exercise program. Take an exercise class, join a walking group, watch fitness content online for new ideas, hire an expert. Find a way to embrace physical activity. Exercise can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. It is important when starting out to make it easy on yourself. Start with a small foundation and build.


Here are three exercises to create a strong foundation.

Sit to stand

  • Begin close to edge of chair
  • Lean forward and rise to standing
  • Slowly return to sitting
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Use your arms or raise the seat height as needed

High knee marching

  • Standing upright, lift your knee to belt level
  • Slowly lower and repeat on the other side
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Use your arms for support as needed

Mini squats with reaching overhead

  • Bend your knees into a comfortable mini squat
  • Stand tall reaching arms overhead
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Have a solid structure near for balance support as needed

Mini squats with reaching overhead. Photos by Jacob Jansen.

High knee marching.

Sit to stand. 


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