Pacing activity

Pacing activity

Pacing is a key skill to learn for successful energy management. These involve pacing your exercise and daily activity so as not to flare-up your pain levels and gradually expand your physical activity. Improvements in your general physical functioning help you to become more active, fitter and healthier. pacing

Some increases in pain in the muscles used is to be expected.

  • Ideally use a timer, and be disciplined in beginning and stopping activities with your baseline

Step 1
Set a goal that is connected to physical activity and preferably something you want to do more of eg walk the dog
Break down the goal into more manageable activities eg walking to the end of the street, then around the block

Step 2
Set a baseline – start at a level you can comfortably manage eg goal is for a 30 minute walk, might manage 15 minute walk and can comfortably manage an 8 minute walk
Try an activity on 2 consecutive days. Record your body's response and take an average of the activity amount. For example:
Day 1 -11 minute walk
Day 2 - 9 minute walk
Average: 11 + 9 = 20. 20/2 = 10 minutes
Then reduce by 20%
10 minutes x .2=2 min
Baseline is 10 min – 2 = 8 min

  • Complete this level of activity for one week
  • No matter how good you feel stay at the level you have set

To improve your fitness, you need to undertake a little more each week and move your baseline up. But how much is safe for you? Consider your body first, by very gradually building up physical activity over time eg 10%. Your activity goal may be reached at a slower speed than you would like but the important point is to set realistic goals and to pace yourself so that these goals can be met.

  • Use a diary to record your progress and you are noting your achievements

Values for pacing success
• Reward yourself when gains are reached eg small reward at the day's end
• Be consistent
• Be persistent
• Be patient with yourself

Tips for Pacing
• Add in rest periods
• Perform the activity over a realistic timeframe
• Gradually make the activity harder e.g. walk uphill
• After some time you might consider walking on less stable surfaces e.g. beach, grassy verge
• Vary the activity by changing the environment or position e.g. water walking or wall slide exercises against a tree
• Pace the activities, even on bad days
• Keep to the time limit 

Some increase in muscle pain is to be expected

High quality research into pacing has shown its benefits across a wide range of chronic pain conditions from fibromyalgia to post-stroke neuropathic pain. Pain management programs worldwide now incorporate pacing into their sessions and believe pacing to be an important element in the program's success. You can have confidence there is a high level of evidence that pacing works for many people living with chronic pain.

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The Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA) is a health promotion charity providing advocacy, information and practical support for people living with chronic (persistent) pain and their families. APMA is the consumer health organisation for all Australians who live with pain. APMA is your voice.


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