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If Exercise is Medicine, what's the dosage doc?

By now you would have heard us talk about ‘exercise is medicine’, but how do we dose exercise effectively?


Exercise is medicine

There are a few rules that have been used for a long period of time:

Endurance 12+reps, 2-3 sets.

Hypertrophy 6-12 reps, 3-6 sets

Strength 6 or less reps, 2-6 sets

Power 1-2 reps, 3-5 sets


Its not just about how heavy you can lift

However this isn’t particularly useful in a rehabilitation setting when pain and healing need to be taken into account.


Therapeutic exercise needs to consider a whole lot of other factors, such as:

  • Pain

  • Specific functions

  • Fear avoidance & psychological measures (very important in outcomes & prognosis)

  • Confidence & motivation

  • Freedom of movement/relaxation

  • Movement strategy

  • Adherence


Exercise is not always expected to change pain initially, but learning how to move WITHIN pain tolerance is important.

There are 2 really simple rating tools we use as clinicians and they are:

  1. RPE (rating of perceived exertion) - how hard you are working, and

  2. VAS (Visual Analogue Scale of pain) - How much something hurts.



Rating of Perceived Exertion

Visual Analogue Scale




Although both of these measures are subjective (not comparable between people), they are useful to determine how hard you should be working. A really useful guide is the RULE OF 10.


That is if you add up YOUR PERSONAL RPE+VAS it should alway be equal to or less than 10.


For example:

if you are returning to training from an injury and you report a VAS = 6, then you should only be working at an effort = 4 RPE.

If your VAS is 2/10, then you could potentially working at a RPE=8!



All about balance

But all things, this is a guide! so if pain goes down, load can be increased, and visa versa. The Key is monitor and review!



If you are looking to get back into activity after an injury our team of physiotherapists and exercise physiologists are here to help.


Call and book in to see them on 08 31622778, they all have a wealth of experience in treating all aspects of sporting and orthopaedic injuries.

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