Ataxia UK

I've found a way to get me to exercise

This may not be of interest to those of you who are already active, and apologies to those who are no longer as mobile as they once were, and for whom reading this may be frustrating.

Like most of us, we have heard our physiotherapists telling us to exercise more - "use it or lose it" being one of their less pleasant but frequent sayings. I remember our own Harriet telling us at one conference, something like: "it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do something", referring to the need for exercise.

Unfortunately, some of us, meaning me, these exhortations did not get me going, and I felt myself getting less and less able as I became less fit. It also didn't help that I struggled to get physio sessions.

Then, about a month ago, there was a campaign talking about how everyone should walk at least 10,000 steps every day. After picking myself up off the floor from laughing so much, I wondered how many steps I as actually taking every day. Even the idea of me accomplishing even 1,000 steps wasn't feasible, or so I thought.

Perhaps I should explain: I have a few back problems including a trapped nerve, that make walking difficult and at times, quite painful. Apparently, my ataxia causes my back to struggle to stay properly upright, and the back pain itself makes my posture sometimes awkward, so the two feed off each other and make everything worse.

All of this meant that I was often reluctant to do any walking, never mind 10,000 steps. I found that I had days when I was out of milk or bread, and unable to make myself walk to the local shop to get the necessaries. Unfortunately I was letting my depression make a difficult situation worse.

Back to the 10,000 steps campaign. I was watching the late evening newspaper reviews, and one of the guests commented that he had recently bought an activity tracker which was worn on the wrist. Normally quite sedentary, he talked about how it was getting him to exercise more.

Intrigued, I decided to investigate. Now, these devices are normally associated with really fit people who go running, but encouraged by what I had heard, I decided I would ignore any potential embarrassment, and would speak to a salesman to find out if one of these devices would work for me.

I was assured it would, and it has. I had researched different activity trackers and chose one that also had a time and date display. I had not worn a wristwatch for several years and was getting tired of searching for my mobile phone whenever I wanted to know the time. The Garmin Vivofit also has a watch battery and lasts for about a year - quite a few others have to be recharged either daily or every few days. This one is also waterproof, so I didn't have to worry yesterday when I was caught in the rain. You can also shower in it, and even swim - as long as you don't go below five feet underwater.

One of the best features though, is that it is light and very comfortable to wear. I fact it is very easy to forget, except when the red line appears on the display telling me I have not been for a walk for over an hour. Even though there is no vibration, somehow my eyes keep on noticing the red line until I give up and go for a walk.

The key question I had for the salesman was: "would it work for someone like me who walks slowly, sometimes very slowly?" Yes, it does. So even if I am having a bad day pain wise, I find myself shuffling along until the red line goes away, usually about 200 steps will do it. It even works if you are carrying a shopping bag, and are therefore not swinging your arm while walking.

My physio was talking about putting reminders to go for a walk in my diary on my mobile phone, but this is so much more effective. I now find that I am taking two or three short walks every day and am sure it is doing me a lot of good.

In fact, I started to feel so good that I took a trip into Central London, taking a bus and then the tube. This was a big achievement for me, given that the last time I managed this was about three years ago.

I overdid it the first time by walking and standing too much, and when I got home, I was in so much pain I could hardly walk. Two weeks later the inflammation has still not completely gone down, and the pain is rather unpleasant, but I'm glad I stretched myself.

I've been back into London Town, first having taken extra painkillers, and taking it slowly with regular rests. For a change, I am getting out and about.

I can't say whether I am any fitter as a result of all this, but I feel fitter, even if it is only in my mind - and that is a big part of my personal battle.

This may not be right for you, but I urge you to think about it. It really worked for me.

Research well to find one that suits you, and then go to a shop like John Lewis where you can be sure of not only a good price, but more importantly good advice.

I look forward to reading your own stories, just don't overdo it like I did. So far, I have taken over 50,000 steps in the two weeks since I started wearing it. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling a little more positive about the future.

7 Replies

Well done! You make me hang my head in shame, really.

I encourage others to exercise within their capabilities, yet

don't do anything myself.

Getting sidetracked, that's my biggest failing. A reminder

that wouldn't shut up is what I need, or somebody with a

big stick :-)

I'm going on the John Lewis site now! xB


Okay, I checked it out and I actually think I'll go and look at it.

Anything that encourages me to move is a bonus. The only

downside, is the price. But then I suppose you only get what

you pay for. Similar products need to be charged after about

10hrs, I would probably forget to do that.

It has occurred to me that the battery might be very expensive,

because I have a watch that's high maintenance.

But, having said all that, I'm still interested :-) xB


Hi wobblybee,

You are right about the price, but as you say, you get what you pay for. For me, I believe I am already feeling the benefits.

As far as I can tell the watch batteries are about £1.75, but do ask John Lewis if you want to make sure.


This seems a good, progressive idea, to maybe get over the worst of ataxia, or other problems associated or not with it.I have embarked on an exercise programme with the local leisure centre; I'm nowhere near doing 10,000 steps per day, but am slowly increasing my balance, strength and stamina and hope to be able to walk a few hundred yards unaided, and go hiking and shopping as I uused to. At the moment, whenever I go out, I rely on a taxi taking me door-to-door, or my Personal Assistant, who helps me with walking by holding 1 arm while I use a stick with the other arm. Some form of exercise, regularly taken, seems vital for all ataxias.

I wish you the best with your approach!


In the past I've joined gyms twice. What stressed me was the noise and

bright lights, the actual exercise machines were fine.

Despite having a treadmill at home the problem is distraction. I'm all to

easily distracted, I need something to prompt me.

We're still housing my daughter's power plate but I wouldn't recommend

that! :-) xB


thaat is great, I am really pleased for you.


Dear Wyndham, Kudos to you! You should be extremely proud of your achievement! I recently started aquatic therapy twice a week and LOVE it! I also bought an Access Active Rollator on Amazon and have taken several pleasure walks with it thus far. I also attend Weight Watchers and they encourage using something that gages how many steps you take. Keep up the great work! Thanks for your story..., ;o)


You may also like...