Kittle: Pace yourself when exercising while ill

In times of prolonged rest, the body starts to get out of condition, joints becoming stiffer and muscles becoming weaker.

When dealing with chronic pain or illness, it’s more effective to balance rest with activity.

By taking more time, and to pace your daily activities you are able to preserve energy.

A common cycle for people with chronic pain involves pushing themselves until the pain tells them to stop, followed by a period of rest, taking painkillers and feel frustration and despair.

In times of prolonged rest, the body starts to get out of condition, joints becoming stiffer and muscles becoming weaker.

Consequently, it is less able to cope with a higher level of activity.

Rest periods tend to become longer and activity levels, including fitness and function, tend to reduce.

There are ways to break the over/under activity cycle and increase your activity level without stirring up the pain.

Pacing is being able to do everyday activities without making the pain worse.

If you can successfully pace everyday activities, you will find over time you will become fitter. Because you are fitter, you will be able to do even more without making the pain worse.

Pacing puts you in control of your life rather than the pain.

This is a topic that comes up in conversation from time to time in my Fibrofit Pool Fitness classes (for those living with the pain of arthritis fibromyalgia and other inflammatory diseases) is the subject of pacing and how to get through daily activities with less pain?

I was excited to discover from Cambridge University Hospital a formula to help find comfortable time limits for completing activities.

Here are some ways you can incorporate pacing into your daily activities:

• Listen to your body—stop when you are feeling tired, and before you feel pain

• Take regular breaks

• Plan and prioritize your day/week—decide which activities/jobs are most important and get them done first.

• Change positions—get up and move around often.

• Gradually increase over time—complete your activities at a level that feels comfortable and then gradually increase this over time.

Do not push yourself too hard to begin with.

Find your baseline as mentioned below, and gradually increase from this.

Before being able to pace yourself you need to establish a comfortable time limit for activities.

A baseline is a comfortable level of activity that you can manage on a regular basis, without experiencing an increase in symptoms. It acts as a starting point on which to build activity levels gradually.

How to find a comfortable time limit?

Choose an activity; for example, sitting, standing or walking then record/measure the length of time you are comfortably able to do this.

Do this at least three separate times in a day and on good days and bad days.

Take the average of these times, then deduct a 1/5 of this.


Length of time—1,000 hours 1,500 hours 2,100 hours.

Time taken over task—15 minutes 10 minutes 7 minutes

Average 32 divided by 3=11 minutes (15+10+7)/3

Less 1/5=9 minutes.


Length of time—5 minutes, 1 minute, 3 minutes

Average 9÷3=3 minutes

Less 1/5=2.5 minutes.


Length of time—10 minutes, 8 minutes, 5 minutes

Average 23÷3 = 7.6 minutes

Less 1/5= 6 minutes.

Hope this helps you in managing your pain.