The COVID-19 pandemic has made people take a fresh look at their health and how to get fit. Recent research from Sport England revealed 66 percent of Brits say it’s important to them to exercise regularly.1 However, physical activity among adults fell during lockdown, meaning that many of us are now having to work harder to get back in shape.2
With many gyms, swimming pools and other fitness venues reopen again, we have other options alongside activities such as running and cycling available to us. However, if we’re not careful, increasing exercise levels or trying new activities can risk injury, no matter how fit we are. So how can we make sure that we stay fit whilst protecting ourselves against aches, pains and genuine injury? Here are some tips:
1. Warm up
Often, we’re keen to skip straight to the main event, but a good warm up should last at least 5-10 minutes and involve gently exercising muscles to prepare them for the activity to follow. Here are some recommended warm up exercises from the NHS.
Warming up is important as it increases blood flow to the muscles, increasing your body temperature and the flexibility of muscle fibres, reducing the risk of pulling or straining a muscle. Likewise, make sure you cool down after your fitness session to reduce your heart rate and body temperature, and allow your muscles to recover steadily.3
2. Stretch before and after exercise
Most of us don’t realise that warming up and stretching are not the same. It’s important to warm up before you stretch so that your muscles are warm.4 Stretching after your warm up will lengthen muscles and tendons, further preventing injury. Pay particular attention to stretching the muscles which will be used during your activity, and remember to repeat the stretches after you’ve finished following your cool down.
3. Work on your technique
Learning the right techniques for exercise will minimise risk of injury to muscles, tendons and bones. For example, paying attention to your running form and using the right posture when lifting weights are critical to ensuring that you don’t injure yourself.
If you’re exercising at the gym, ask for help from staff to make sure you’re using equipment properly. If exercising on your own, outdoors or at home, ensure you research how to move or use equipment correctly before starting your activity. If you can, exercise in front of a mirror so that you can keep an eye on your form throughout, especially as you get tired, when form can often suffer.
4. Work up slowly
Whether you’re an experienced exerciser, starting from scratch or building back up after lockdown, it’s important to build your workout slowly. If you’re a runner, add mileage gradually to give your body a chance to adjust and recover. If you’re using weights, make sure you increase these slowly to allow your body to steadily increase strength.
Closure of gyms during lockdown meant that many of us lost strength over those months so don’t expect to go straight back to lifting the same weights you could pre-pandemic. Over time, you will notice your fitness increase, and you will be able to build intensity, duration and/or weight.
5. Pay attention to your body
When exercising, make sure you listen to your body and know your physical limits. Watch out for any discomfort and don’t continue exercising through pain, which is often a signal that something’s wrong. Make sure you build rest days into your fitness routine, and try yoga stretching exercises to aid recovery.
6. Consult the experts
Expert help can be invaluable in preventing or treating sports injuries. Treatment including physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic can help relieve problems with muscles and joints, ensuring that these are checked and don’t escalate into more serious injury. Regular sports massage can also help treat aches, pains and injuries, and will help reduce muscle stiffness and improve relaxation by reducing heart rate and blood pressure.5
The cost of treatment can add up, but did you know you can get money back with a health care cash plan from Sovereign Health Care? With our Good All Round cash plan, you can claim money back towards these treatments and much more, so you can maintain your everyday fitness without the worry of unexpected costs.
For more information on our Good All Round cash plan, please check out sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/good-all-round