As lockdown measures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are extended and experts warn that it’s likely to be some time before life returns to normal, exercising at home has become the new norm for many of us.
Benefits of regular exercise
As orthopaedic consultants, we encourage our patients to take regular exercise in whatever way they can. Exercise has well-documented musculoskeletal benefits, helping to strengthen your muscles and bones. People who exercise regularly are less prone to joint problems and fractures as they age and their balance is better, which reduces their chances of falling. Regular exercise increases the strength of ligaments and tendons and the size and strength of muscle fibres. It also increases the number of capillaries that supply your muscles with blood and the mitochondria in your muscle tissue which allows the muscle to burn more energy.
Aside from the musculoskeletal benefits, exercising is good for your cardiovascular system, respiratory system, metabolism and mental health. It has been shown to reduce your chances of developing certain types of cancer and improve your immune function, helping to reduce your risk of infections.
Why it’s crucial to avoid injury now
We are wholly in favour of the impulse to exercise at home for all of these reasons, but with one important caveat. Exercising carries an increased risk of injury and right now it is vital to avoid getting injured if you can, so you must take extra care.
The NHS is under considerable pressure, with doctors and nurses working flat out to treat patients affected by Covid-19. Most surgery has been cancelled, with the exception of some life-saving or limb-saving procedures or very basic surgery. Even private orthopaedic practices like ours have postponed all surgical procedures until at least the end of May to enable us to dedicate our resources to supporting the NHS.
This means if you do injure yourself you may have a long wait for surgery. It doesn’t mean you should avoid going to hospital if you need to, of course, but you may experience lengthy waiting times to get X-rayed and you may also be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk of infection.
Common injuries… and how to avoid them
Here are some suggestions for avoiding these and other common exercise-related injuries:
- Take precautions – Because we tend to feel at ease in our home environment, we may not take the same precautions that we would do if we were in the gym or sports field. Set aside a dedicated time if you are exercising at home and clear any trip hazards and pets out of the room. Be aware that you may not be able to exercise as vigorously as you would do normally. You may want to discourage children from exercises that carry a higher risk of injury, such as trampolining.
- Wear the right gear – It’s particularly important to wear the right shoes if you are running or jumping.
- Try to exercise regularly – You are more likely to sustain an injury if you exercise intensively on an irregular basis. It is better to exercise moderately for 30 minutes every day if you can.
- Build up slowly – Don’t try and do too much too soon. You need time to build muscle strength and flexibility. It’s also important to stop when you get tired as this is when you are most at risk of injury.
- Vary your routine – It is a good idea to have a mix of high impact cardiovascular activities, like running, and low impact activities like yoga or walking. Your body uses different muscle groups for different types of exercise, which can help you to avoid overuse injuries.
If you do injure yourself, stop and rest the affected limb. An ice pack can help to reduce swelling and so can keeping the limb elevated above the level of your heart. You can take anti-inflammatories or painkillers to manage any pain. If the injury is serious or does not improve within a few days, it’s important to seek medical attention as continuing to use an injured limb may lead to long-term damage.
Stay well and injury-free during these unprecedented times and please be sure to follow the latest government guidelines: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Orthopaedic specialists – Nottingham
Our orthopaedic consultants each specialise in a particular area of orthopaedics, giving you added peace of mind that you are receiving expert medical advice and highly tailored treatment.
BMI The Park Hospital
Sherwood Lodge Drive Burntstump Country Park, Arnold NG5 8RX
Spire Nottingham Hospital
Tollerton Ln, Tollerton, Nottingham NG12 4GA