Many Canadians have turned their homes into offices, classrooms and gyms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more fitness studios leading virtual classes, working out at home has arguably never been easier. But it doesn’t mean it’s without risk.
There are a few injuries that are common when it comes to at-home workouts, said Chris Edwards, owner and managing director of TriCore Wellness. These include shoulder/neck injuries, and lower back and hip injuries.
They are often caused by improperly warming up, rushing through routines, not paying attention to proper form and not resting enough between exercise sets, he said.
“These variables can affect the workout effectiveness and increase your risk of injury,” Edwards said.
Before you work out…
To work out in the safest way, get your body ready for movement.
It’s not wise to jump right into physical activity without preparing the body first, Nekessa Remy, a chiropractor and owner of Mississauga, Ont.-based clinic The Chiropractic Office said in an interview with The Morning Show.
“Before you work out, think about wanting to get your heart rate up [and] your muscles ready to work out,” she explained.
Start with some dynamic stretching, which will warm the body up. Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretches are active and can include walking lunges, arm circles and high kicks.
Teddy Savage, a Baltimore, Md., certified trainer at Planet Fitness, said your dynamic stretches should “mimic the kinds of movements/exercises you’ll be doing in the workout.”
One movement Remy recommends is a lunge with a twist, which warms up the lower body, core and upper body, she said.
While you work out…
Good form, a safe set-up and proper equipment are key to a quality workout, experts say.
“I understand we are indoors and may think working out barefoot is OK, but it’s not,” Remy said. “You want to make sure that you’ve got a good running shoe with arch support.”
Repetitive impact has an effect on joints and feet, so you want proper shoes to reduce any chance of injury. Plantar fasciitis, a condition that involves inflammation in the foot, can be caused by activities that put a lot of stress on the heel.
If you’re doing high-impact exercises, Remy says to look for running shoes with good cushioning in the heel.
Mats are also vital. It’s not advisable to workout on hardwood or carpet, Remy said, and suggests exercising on a thick exercise mat. Research has found that carpets and unsecured rugs can lead to dangerous slipping accidents — especially in older adults.
You also want to ensure there’s space around your mat and above your head, as it’s easy to trip on surrounding items or hit your head on ceilings or lighting fixtures.
Taking a virtual class can help ensure movements are done properly, as working out without guidance can lead to bad form and injury. Edwards has been working virtually with clients through fitness app Trainerize during the pandemic.
“Warm-ups, rest periods and communication with the instructor are also apart of our online programs,” he said.
Savage agrees that proper form is key to preventing injury. He said focusing on doing movements properly — and adequate recovery time — is vital.
“You should focus more on your flexibility, range of motion, posture and body mechanics rather than how much weight you can press or how many reps you can accomplish,” he said.
“Improper form will most certainly lead to injury over time, whereas proper form will generate effectiveness and results.”
After you work out…
“At the end of your routine, you want to perform static stretches,” Savage said, which can help safeguard against injury.
“These stretches are more stationary in nature and are meant to loosen the muscles that were just flexed/tightened and bring the heart rate down.”
Remy said you want to focus on flexibility with your cool-down and hold static stretches for a decent amount of time.
“One of my favourites is an imitation of the cat/camel [pose], which you do in yoga,” Remy said.
To do this move, stand up tall and interlace your fingers and press hands forward in front of you, allowing your back to round.
This move is good for stretching out your upper back, she said, which is especially helpful for people who spend much of their time at a computer.
It’s also important to stretch out the front of your hips, which can get tight from sitting. To do this, Remy said to get into a lunge position. Then, hinge the hip (on the side of your back leg) forward. Do both sides.
“This is a really important muscle to stretch because it’s often the cause of low back pain,” she said.
At the end of the day, listening to your body is key. Don’t push yourself if you’re in pain, and make sure you get enough rest, sleep and hydration, Edwards said.
“Recovery of your muscles, nervous system, and other human system happen when you sleep,” he explained.
“Many times your body cannot keep up with life’s daily stresses; couple this with poor sleep and recovery, and you have an injury waiting to happen.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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