Graded Activity

Graded activity involves gradually increasing your activity step by step and at a rate that is manageable for you.

It is part of your activity management skills to help you improve your function and your quality of life whist living with persistent pain.

Here are some steps to follow….

Decide on one activity you would like to improve

If you have set or discussed goals with your family or health professional you may want to pick this as your activity. It ought to be an activity you want to do; not what you think you should do! For example, if your goal is to be able to go to the park with your children, then walking may be the activity you choose gradually increase.

Work out your baseline

As we mentioned in the pacing section, it can be helpful to know your own tolerance to certain activities. This is how much you can do now, on a good or bad day without causing a flare up of your pain.

A common mistake is to start with too much activity and too quickly. For example, if you take a walk for 20 minutes but by the end of it you have increased pain or the pain makes you stop this is not your tolerance; it is likely to be half of this. So start with a 10 minute walk. If this is too easy after a couple of attempts, you can always add a couple of minutes!

Use a plan or a diary

Using a plan or a diary to write down your time achieved or what you intend to achieve on a daily basis is a great way to monitor your progress and maintain your progress. You could also rate how well or confident you felt following the completion of your activity; a great way to remind yourself of your achievements.

Try to stick to your plan

Where you can try to ensure you stick to your plan. However, if it slips a little, don’t worry! Give yourself a break for a day or slightly reduce your activity or break your activity into 2 small parts for a day, then get back on with what you had planned for the rest of your week.

Remember, a small increase in pain is normal, you are exercising and moving more, but this will settle quickly. Remind yourself you are not causing any harm or damage!

Review your plan

It would be worth reviewing your plan at the end of each week to see how you have managed.

Did it go well and you can continue at this pace? Is it time to maintain the current progress and have a ‘holiday’ from increasing your activity? Was it too much and you were too ambitious? Do you need to slow down a little or take a small step back?

How your pain has been over that week will give you feedback and guidance on how to move forwards in your next week. Any of the above outcomes is ok; remember you are making change and that is amazing!

Write next week’s plan

When you have worked out and reflected on your previous week, you can then plan the next week using the same guide. Remember, progress isn’t always straightforward and can be slow. If you experience a setback, reflect on it and use it as a learning point, don’t be disappointed.

Graded exposure made easy…

  • Pick an activity
  • Work out your starting point
  • Do your plan
  • Reflect on your week
  • Plan the next week.