The lockdown has been a difficult time when it comes to maintaining fitness. First, with the strict-no venturing out policy, we were confined to our homes. A lack of activities—not even the mandatory walks to the coffee machine in office—meant that most people gained a few kilos. Then came the more difficult part: getting rid of all the extra weight one had put on in the first few months. To get in shape, people started doing home workouts—spot jogging, online sessions and more. There’s nothing wrong about any of that, except that with unsupervised exercising came the risk of avoidable injuries.
“One must remember that the online classes are not exactly a class for yourself, it is designed as a class for the masses. If someone has been regularly working out and knows the technique, they can stand to benefit. But for beginners, this might spell out more harm than good,” explains Subhash Jangid, director and unit head, Fortis bone and joint institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
Often, when beginners (someone who has not been physically active in terms of going to a gym or playing any sport) enrolls for an online class, they feel that they must follow the trainer in every aspect. “But you need to give it 3-4 months to be able to learn exercises correctly and only then transition to a high intensity class. Any movement can be scaled, and a trainer—even if online—should be able to guide you with that,” adds Dr Jangid.
This can also happen to seasoned gym-goers. It is but natural for people to lose some of their strength from months of inactivity. For example, a runner might need at least a few weeks to get back to previous running speeds if she has not been training for a few months. Sports physiotherapist Heath Matthews believes that people who quickly adopted repetitive training programs without gradually increasing the intensity can get injured more easily. “According to the acute to chronic workload ratio, if the amount of stress on the body through exercise is 30% or more than the average of the last 4 weeks, their chances for getting injuries increases dramatically. Because of lack of adequate place to exercise and appropriate equipment, many people fell prey to this acute overload and sustained injuries,” he says.
When you start training, it cannot be focused on just one aspect of your health. Rakesh Nair, consultant knee replacement surgeon at Mumbai’s Zen Multispeciality Hospital knows this well. Dr Nair has had to do knee replacement surgeries on clients during the lockdown who started running in a small space, putting undue stress on their knees and ankles.
“Some people start off by doing only cardio and they tend to overdo it. If you keep on running, jumping and skipping, you will put extra load on your joints. You need to strengthen the muscles in your lower body so that the impact is not felt on your joints. And along with that you need to have enough mobility and flexibility,” he says.
He further suggests getting a routine blood test done before starting any exercise regime—be it at home or in a gym. “This gives you an idea of your vitamin (B12 and D) and calcium levels. Unless those are in a normal range, even the simplest of exercises can cause you an injury,” he explains.