Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic, Islington, London

How Do I Choose What Exercise To Do?

The importance of regular general exercise is very much a hot topic these days and is frequently being hailed as the latest, cost-effective panacea for most forms of ill-health.

Exercise is something that we advocate to our clients, especially if their presenting condition is in some way related to a sedentary lifestyle. For people unaccustomed to exercise, it can be hard to choose something to do, there are also financial and time costs associated with taking up a new exercise or sport, and the best exercise for one person may not be at all suitable for the next.

Some Useful Factors to Think About When Taking Up Exercise or a New Sport:

What do you like doing? - Is there a sport or exercise you were involved in during the past or at school that you enjoyed? Or something that you have always wanted to try?

How much time do you have available? - Many gyms require travel and changing time to be factored in - if you're short on time, something like a home exercise dvd or even smartphone app might be a useful alternative.

How much money can you allocate to this? Exercise costs from free to ££££ but more than ever before, there is now something to suit all budgets:

On-Line and Free

NHS choices is a great source, YouTube is a rich source of exercise and there are a lots of on-line free apps and programmes.

A word of warning - check the origin, read the reviews and if you're not familiar with a new exercise you may need someone to show you in a class or 1-to-1, at least to start with.

Many local parks now have free outdoor gyms and provide instructions on how to use the equipment.

Low Price

Many gyms and exercise studios offer free tasters, special offers and community half-price classes.

Look out for local church hall or community centre classes that often have subsidised rates.

Many of the newer style gyms offer cheap memberships and no joining fees.

www.PayasUGym offers access to a wide range of gyms and exercise studios that you would in the past have had to join as a member.

More Money to Spend?

If you can or wish to allocate more funds, there are lots of options from membership-only gyms to personal trainers. If time is a constraint, many trainers will travel to your home and often, your appointment can be shared with a friend or partner to lower the cost. We always advise trying to get a recommendation for a trainer or class and again many will offer an initial free trial to ensure their programme is suitable for you.

Other Factors To Consider

- Who can you rope in to go with you & encourage you?

This is important especially if it's been a while since you've gone down the exercise route. It can also make it a lot more fun.

- Make it a Habit

We generally advise people to make an appointment for their exercise session - like a hair or dentist appointment and the more regularly you do it, the more automatic it becomes until you suddenly find that you start to miss it if you don't go!

Pros and Cons of the More Common Exercises

Clients are sometimes surprised to hear that the exercise that they are doing might not be the most suitable for them or enough to prevent them from getting problems. Below, we've put together some things to think about when choosing what exercise to do:


Pros: Great for general cardio-vascular (CV) fitness. Partial weight-bearing so good if running's a problem for you. Usually great for knee problems. Not much instruction required.

Cons: Outdoor cycling - safety and visibility important issues. Handlebar and saddle position important to get right. Dropped handlebars often cause increased thoracic curvature and stiffness and can contribute to spinal issues in office workers. We generally recommend panniers rather than carrying a bag on your back for long distances.


Pros: Free and minimal equipment involved. Great general, cardiovascular workout and good for weight management.

Cons: Doesn't suit everyone depending on your body biomechanics and previous injuries. Good running shoes are essential. Often not great for existing knee and lower back injuries. Not sufficient on it's own to combat the spinal stiffness often associated with office working.


Pros: Great general work out - builds stamina, flexibility and strength.

Cons: Not great if you're already very flexible (hypermobile joints) as you can over-strain your joints. Very important to choose a good teacher and  yoga style that suits you.


Pros: Builds strength flexibility and muscle imbalance. Great for back problems and muscle imbalance.

Cons: Can be difficult to get the hang of the key core muscle contraction. Important to get a good teacher and not join too big a class if you're a beginner. Sometimes one-to-one instruction to start with to ensure correct technique can be helpful.


Pros: Great CV workout and gentle on joints as non-weight bearing. Especially helpful if you're hypermobile (very flexible). Back stroke can be useful for spinal problems especially in desk-based office workers.

Cons: Good technique important to avoid strain on neck and spine. Breast stroke not generally recommended for hip and knee problems.

Weight Training

Pros: Builds strength

Cons: Good instruction and technique vital to avoid joint over-strain and injury. Needs supplementing with CV and stretching exercise to ensure all round fitness and muscle balance.


Pros: Good CV exercise, no major equipment required (other than supportive shoes recommended).

Cons: Not sufficient in itself for ensuring spinal mobility in desk-based workers.

Final word

As you can see from the quick review of exercise above, it's not a 'one-size-fits-all' approach when it comes to exercise recommendation.

If you would like a biomechanical assessment and advice on the right type of exercise for you please do not hesitate to contact us - it's something that we help our clients with all the time.

Helen Skehan is Practice Principal of Physio Solutions Clinic

"Thank you so much for fixing my leg!"


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Established in 1998