A Guide to Managing Your Activity Levels During Social Isolation
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the way we live our everyday lives due to the infectious nature of the disease. Reducing new cases and trying to control the infection rate is the number one priority of the government – and its been shown, like in other countries that limiting our social interaction appears to be the way forward. Schools shutting, workers being urged to stay at home and pensioners advised not to leave the house are the strategies being applied in order to control the spread.
The government have discouraged mass gatherings, avoiding public transport and only going out for necessary/vital trips. Local councils have closed leisure centres including their gym and swimming facilities which has left a lot of people without the ability to perform their usual exercise routines. Walking and outside exercise has been advised but only at a safe distance from other people.
China – where the virus originated has had a total lockdown in the area of Wuhan which meant people could not leave their homes. France has applied a similar policy and other countries are following suit as it appears the only successful way to overcome the problem.
This is a required action – but with it comes a whole host of new issues including our physical and mental wellbeing. If you have been regularly attending the gym or frequently exercise outside of the home, then this is going to come as a shock to the system.
Online Training Influx
In the past week there’s been an influx of online exercise videos focusing on home workouts and fitness routines. Whilst this type of content is positive during testing times – it’s also important to look at what’s best for you, your fitness and capability levels. A common cause of injury is an increase in load which your body is not used to – in this instance – a poorly designed workout you’ve seen online. The exercises may be too advanced, the pace might be different to your usual and the volume may be too high for your body to take.
Limitations Of Free Movement
With the limitation of free movement comes the importance to keep ourselves active, but to also do this safely. Injury should be prevented at all costs to remove burden on our healthcare services and for you to remain healthy in being able to assist family members.
If the lockdown lasted 1 month – it is unlikely you are going to make a lot of physical progress in this time, but you can continue to keep yourself healthy and maintain your current condition in line with your long term goals. Here are my top tips for staying motivated, addressing your body’s basic needs while avoiding injury.
1. Work With A Personal Trainer Online
There’s multiple reasons why getting a PT can help you through this period. You may already work with one and they will know you well so can design a programme that meets your needs. If you don’t have one – look for someone experienced, tell them your background and capability with training, what equipment you have and get a program designed to you! If your goal is weight loss oriented, discuss a diet plan and the effect of reduced activity on your body’s energy requirements – this will be important if you are weight loss focused and a PT’s input could be vital if you are unsure what you need to adjust. The final reason – PT’s are self employed and the down turn in business for them could be devastating, support someone who is self-employed and pay a small amount so they can help you but also to help them!
2. Manage Your CV Fitness Levels
The World Health Organisation recommend: “Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.”
Our current recommendation from the government (at time of publishing) is to stay home mostly but with 1 lot of exercise per day such as a jog, walk and a cycle are encouraged. If you have any indoor exercise equipment – try and stay in line with your training programme but realise the effect of sedentary behaviour and inactivity is not good for your general health. Pick your favourite and remain consistent! The American College of Sports Medicine state that even as little as 2 weeks of detraining (non activity) can lead to a significant decline in fitness levels and even 2 months can result in a virtual loss of all your fitness gains.
An important final note – COVID-19 affects the respiratory system and in some individuals can have serious health implications, protect yourself and keep your lungs strong and your cardiovascular system fit – if you were to contract this disease, your fitness levels could help to get you through it.
Alternate Heel Kicks Jogging
Jogging with High Knees
Maintain good posture and walk upstairs
Hold skipping rope in both hands, and skip using alternative legs.
Maintaining a good upright posture, walk sideways. Move one leg out to your side and meet it with your other leg.
3. Strength Training
You’ll be glad to know that the decline in muscle strength occurs at a slower rate than that of the cardiovascular fitness. That isn’t a reason to neglect it however and we should look at ways to try and maintain our current strength levels, or even improve. As we age, we naturally lose muscle and soft tissues like ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage can all be affected by the ageing process. The many benefits from strength training as we age are undeniable on all of these tissues – plus they make us move better, improve our pain levels and ultimately reduce our chances of injury.
If you are eating extra calories currently – put it to good use by moving some weight! Sedentary behaviour and low activity are a recipe for disaster for the body’s soft tissues such as muscles and tendons. They both respond to being loaded and forcefully contracted – when they aren’t, they decline in strength, capability and can even develop tendonitis, muscle atrophy and shortening of muscle length.
Your strength routine entirely depends on your home setup and the equipment you have available to you. Resistance programs with weights, kettlebells, elastics and body weight are all great forms to strength train! If you’re stuck for ideas, consult your trainer or have a look online.
Sit Up Crunch
Educate yourself regarding mobility and think about the mobility you need to be performing. Mobility exercises can be defined simply as movements and actions that increase a joints range of motion without prolonged stretching of the muscle.
Our daily habit could see us perform the same task/job repetitively over and over again – with this comes postural adaption and imbalances acquired through working in this recurrent way. A desk worker may have tight hips and a lower back, a production line worker may have shoulder and neck issues which need regular work to keep right.
You may have had injuries in the past which need constant work and attention to maintain joint range of motion and keep you performing at an optimal level. The effect of enforced quarantine may mean you adapting to your environment and acquiring repetitive habits which can have a direct impact on your body.
There are a ton of mobility drills you can perform without equipment and if needed you can use mobility tools such as spiky balls, foam rollers and massage guns to aid your maintenance routine. If you need inspiration look for a book online named : Becoming A Supple Leopard. This has plenty of ideas for home mobility movements and tricks.
Also remember to take a look at our previous blog to help with mobility: Foam Rolling – The Ultimate Guide
Hip Mobility In and Out
Leg Swing Side
5. Load Management
The most important point is saved for last and it’s a topic which I think more people should know about in order to save them from injury and ultimately aid their progression with training over time. In professional sport the way in which training load (frequency, distance, intensity and weight of activity) is monitored, helps to reduce injuries and prepare athletes for an event making sure they are in optimal condition. In the elite sporting world this is done by a battery of tests and lots of special equipment including data analysis programs and GPS distance trackers which can reveal detailed information regarding performance.
Nearly all injuries happen when the affected tissue or body part is pushed beyond its capability and leads to structural failure. For example, impact injuries are unavoidable such as trauma from a bad tackle or a fall. However, the non-contact injuries such as muscle pulls, joint irritation and tendon issues can be reduced or even totally avoided. This point is now super important in today’s unprecedented setting – if we suddenly start workouts we haven’t done before at a high intensity – it increases our body’s risk of tissue breakdown and injury. This could be because your joints aren’t used to a certain exercise, your body hasn’t performed at the speed or frequency that the workout is set at or you have been particularly sedentary and suddenly try to train a lot of new movements which your body just isn’t prepared for.
A great example of this can be generic bootcamp style fitness sessions in the park, the ones designed to make you vomit and render your body useless for a week (my pet hate). I’ve seen countless people in clinic, injured , due to the high intensity, one size fits all nature of the workout, which is poorly placed upon all participants, not taking in to account their background. You may have been the one who’s been injured like that – I’ve seen countless people in clinic and it’s a classic example of poor load management. Typically, the injury occurs within the first 2-4 weeks in a setting like this – mainly because it takes your body 6 weeks to adapt to a new stimulus – if performed right.
The solution – careful periodisation of training and planning. Start at low intensity and frequency, assess yourself the next day to see what effect it has on the trained area and then adjust the next workout accordingly. If its with weights, focus on slow controlled increase in weight used and record sets and reps to see how you can gradually progress – the increase over time is progressive overload which leads to your fitness gains. In running/cycling you can control this with a GPS app or step counter to measure your distance and ensure you don’t suddenly spike your distances or speed which if done too soon could lead you to injury.
With all training you perform, be conscious, record your sessions, seek slow – progressive overload, over time this converts in to greater resilience in your body’s tissues and reduces the chance of injury which leads to more time training and more progression to be made without any lost time! I hope this blog has provided some food for thought and provides a welcome influx of knowledge and distraction. Stay safe, stay at home.
All of our exercise prescription photos and videos in this blog came from our clinical software Rehab My Patient.