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Maintaining Healthy Habits

Maintaining Healthy Habits


Life can be busy, crazy, and filled with unexpected changes. Despite this, we’re all aiming for one that is meaningful, healthy, and happy. Sometimes in our lives, whether through injury, illness, pain, addiction, avoidance, or other unexpected occurrences (such as a diagnosis with a chronic health condition or cancer diagnosis) we need to re-evaluate our circumstances or approach. In order to get back on track to achieving our goals, we’re forced to address certain health behaviours.

Whether that involves addressing nutrition and diet, sleep patterns, relationships with addictive substances (such as alcohol, nicotine, or drugs), or maybe levels of physical fitness or activity, we all have the capacity to incorporate better health behaviours into our life. I am sure that you could list at least one or two that you may have been trying to tackle.

A classic example is that a person presents to a physiotherapy practice because they have a sore knee. They want their knee pain to go away, and they want to walk and function without pain. The person pays for the opportunity and leaves their appointment with the knowledge of what is going on, education about how to best manage their knee, and exercises that will aid rehabilitation. They arrive home, get back into their day and promptly spend the remainder of the time before their next appointment knowing that they need to do the exercises but not managing to quite get to them. When back at the practice for their next review, even before greeting, the person will most likely offer an apology for not getting to the exercises.

This is a good example of a system breakdown. Although the physio’s life has not been altered in any way and therefore the apology was redundant, the person with the sore knee is still in pain and they still cannot do all the things that they need to do. Obviously, in this example, there are changes that can be made by both the therapist and the patient. However, hopefully, this blog will offer a number of simple strategies that can empower you to incorporate any healthy change into your life to achieve your goals and help them to stick around.

For nearly 30 years as a physiotherapist, I have had the absolute pleasure of guiding the rehabilitation of people from broad and varied backgrounds. From tradies to nuns, children to grandparents, government executives to the Australian Hockeyroos, and even other physiotherapists. Despite the diversity of people and presentations, one major thing that I have learnt is that, despite your profession, age, knowledge, or experiences, EVERYONE has the same difficulties when incorporating changes in our health behaviours. In general, we’re good at setting goals but terrible at maintaining new habits.

We can all acknowledge that health and lifestyle changes or habits are often difficult to change and, even if you know what to do to make adjustments or improvements, it is sometimes difficult to know how to do it consistently and to get them to stick. So, let’s break this down into a number of basic steps:


First Phase: Importance

Making the decision to incorporate or change a behaviour

Identify the change that you wish to make and understand why it is important to you and your life. Make a list, write it down. Think of both the short-term and the long-term gains.

You may wish to establish better sleep patterns, lose weight, reduce your alcohol intake or be more physically active. There may be a few different behaviours that you wish to address, so prioritise.  Always aim to conquer one at a time, so start with the most important one first.

STEP 1: Gather the knowledge that you need to help make, and eventually undertake your decision.

  • Consult a health professional, read up, talk to your friends and family, research online.

STEP 2: Consider your motivation. Work out realistic goals but also think of the things that may act as your barriers.

  • Your Goals: Need to be realistic, specific, and achievable. It is best to break down your goals into small, measurable, and achievable chunks to achieve success. In doing so, work out the benefits of each of your actions to achieve your goals.
  • Your Barriers may include:
  1. Physical barriers: Things happening in your body; things you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch, i.e. The relationship between social situations and smoking or drinking triggers.
  2. Belief systems and habitual thinking patterns: things that you think and believe e.g. ‘I will make my pain worse if I exercise’ or ‘I can’t exercise in the rain’
  3. Normal emotional responses: fuelled by your own thoughts and emotions, or those of the people around you. eg Fear of failure, or harm, or a family history of repeated poor behaviour choices.
  4. Inadequate planning. E.g. Over scheduling or a failure to plan activity into suitable times.

STEP 3: Make a decision to commit to changing your behaviour, be ready to take action, and identify a support person or establish a support network.



Taking action: building the confidence to incorporate and maintain an action or positive health behaviour

STEP 1: Planning and problem solving involves taking all of the information gathered in Phase 1 and establishing a realistic, timely, and achievable plan to incorporate your action.  This includes the overall plan but should address weekly goals and daily undertakings.

STEP 2: Your plan should state your daily Actions that you need to do to achieve your daily and weekly goals. If you wanted to return to running, a sample weekly program may look a little like this:


STEP 3: Keep checking in with yourself and your goals.  The ability to self-monitor and provide honest feedback to yourself is key.  The process to incorporate change will always involve taking small achievable steps and is also a process of trial and error. Sometimes it will be one step forward and two steps back but at other times it will be two steps forward and one step back.

Either way, you need to stay in charge of the process by keeping working slowly and incrementally towards your goals, knowing that, although it will be a challenge, you have established and acknowledged the benefits of your actions. The reward will be in living the life you dream of.


This blog was written by Julie Allen B Phty (Hons), Director and Principal Physiotherapist of The Pentimento Project, a cancer rehabilitation service operating independently within the clinic of Physiotec Physiotherapy since 2010 and additionally within the suites of ICON Cancer Care South Brisbane since 2015. The Pentimento Project is a physiotherapy- based rehabilitation service supporting people with cancer to reach their goals, improve their quality of life, and move beyond their cancer experience.

If you or someone that you know has been affected by a cancer diagnosis, please feel free to schedule a consultation with:

Julie Allen

Phone: 3342 4284

Email: [email protected]


  1. Bills, C. (2021) HealthChange(R) Methodology and Health Coaching (
  2. Cohn, S. (2014) Special Issue: From Health Behaviours to Health Practices: Critical Perspectives.  Sociology of Health and Illness Vol 36, Issue 2 157-162.
  3. Butler D.S and Moseley L.G (2017) Explain Pain Supercharged: The Clinicians Manual.
Back into the Spring of Things

Back into the Spring of Things

Back into the Spring of Things: How to get back on track after the lull in the Winter

In winter, it is normal to feel less motivated with exercise and physical activity. Now that the days are getting longer and nights are shorter we can help you get into the spring of things! Research has shown that being active has many health benefits and helps decrease your risk of chronic disease. But if you don’t know where to begin, here’s a list of activities that are inexpensive and fun, especially if you do them with friends, to help you get started:

Outdoor Activities

Gladwell and his colleagues in 2013 reported that exercise performed outdoors helped increase levels of physical activity and decreased the rate of perceived exertion – that is, for the same amount of energy burnt, it felt easier to exercise outdoors than indoors. Psychological benefits of exercising outdoors include improvement in mood and reduced stress levels. Outdoor activities are not only confined to thrill seeking activities but also include simple activities such as walking or cycling around the neighbourhood, around the park or hiking or trail-riding in the bush. Green exercise is good exercise! Trade the treadmill walking for outdoor walking near the river or amongst the trees.

Walking & Running

An outdoor activity such as walking, especially one that accomplishes 10,000 steps a day, can help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes (Brown et al 2006) and in a study done in Rockhampton where they walked 10,000 steps for 15 weeks, it was found that the participants reported improved well-being and fitness levels. Using a pedometer to track the number of steps has been found to be effective in increasing physical activity (Chan et al 2004) and significantly decreases Body Mass Index (a measure of determined by height and weight) and blood pressure (Bravata et al 2007). Walk to work if you can and incorporate it to your daily activities.

If walking on the streets is not exciting enough then hiking or nordic walking (walking while using poles) also benefits resting heart rate, exercise capacity and improves quality of life of people with various diseases (Tschentscher et al 2013).

You then may be able to progress to increasing your pace and start adding some jogging or light running intervals to increase the intensity of the exercise. If you have never been much of a runner though, it might be a good idea to have a running assessment and get some instruction on good form and training techniques from your physiotherapist. Always progress a new activity slowly, and if you do develop niggles anywhere, don’t ignore it, pop in for a check-up and advice so we can keep you on the road.

Back into the Spring of Things - beach_running


Is your work near your home? Then ditch the car and ride the bike. In Brisbane city, we have access to public bicycles and they are situated in different, easy access locations around the city. Just like walking, researchers have found strong evidence for fitness and health benefits and moderate evidence for risk factors for cardiovascular disease (Oja et al 2013).

Did you know that countries such as Netherlands and Germany have included promotion of safe walking and cycling in their campaign for improving public health (Pucher, Dijkstra 2003). Just recently in July, the Australian Walking and Cycling Inc (AWCC) was formed and it is the only national forum in Australia that has focused on research and promotion of mobility in Australia. They have recently joined forces with the Heart Foundation, which aims to prevent premature death caused by cardiovascular disease in Australia. Be part of the movement! Live long!



Now, if you are limited by time or musculoskeletal injury, Pilates is a good way to get active if grunting in the gym and crossfit are not your thing. Pilates-based exercise and functional strengthening have been very popular in recent years, especially for people who enjoy performing slow, controlled movement. In fact, for rehabilitation, this form of controlled movement retraining and strengthening under the guidance of a physiotherapist, can provide an ideal foundation for return to normal daily activities and for dynamic higher level sports or work tasks. There is evidence that Pilates helps improve functional ability and decrease pain in people with chronic low back pain (Wajswelner et al 2012). It can also help improve dynamic balance (Johnson et al 2007) which would be beneficial both if you are feeling a little unsteady on your feet, or for higher level sporting activities where balance and control is critical for performance and injury prevention.

As we mentioned above, green exercise is good exercise. You get the best of both worlds with the outdoors all around with our Pilates classes. Try it out.

barrel exercise annie

Now we have given you something to think about, have you decided what activity you would like to spring back into? Once you have decided, set a goal and train for it.

Here are some useful links to activities around Australia for events you may be interested in:

If you are still not sure where or how to start, come and see one of our highly trained physiotherapists to help you spring back into action.


Bravata et al (2007). Using Pedometers to increase Physical Activity  and Improve Health: A Systematic Review. The Journal of the Americal Medical Assoc. 298 (19)

Brown et al (2006) 10,000 Steps Rockhampton: Evaluation of a Whole Community Approach to Population Levels of Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 1:1-14

Johnson et al (2007). Effects of Pilates-based exercises on Dynamic Balance. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies . 11 (3)

Oja et al (2103) Health Benefits of Cycling: A systematic Review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 21(4)

Pucher,Dijkstra (2003). Promoting Safe walking and Cycling to Improve Public Health: Lessons from the Netherlands and Germany. American Journal of Public Health . 93(9)

Tschentscher et al (2103).Health Benefits of Nordic Walking. American Journal of Preventive Medicine . 44(1)

Wajswelner et al (2012). Clinical Pilates vs. General Exercise for Chronic Low back pain: Randomized Control Trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc . 44 (7)