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Returning to exercise: how to avoid injury in ‘the new normal’


For many people, exercise has become a source of stress relief in tough times, helping them to stay fit and take a break from the tedium of the challenges of the last year. However, with a marked increase in the number of people suffering common sports and exercise-related injuries, it’s important to consider ways to exercise safely.

Dr James Thing, Sports and Exercise Medicine Consultant at Highgate Hospital, explains.

Preparation is key

While it can be tempting to throw yourself into a new exercise regime at full pelt, it’s important to sustain your exercise safely and successfully. This starts with proper preparation. Choose the right equipment, wear appropriate footwear for running and avoid HIIT (high-intensity interval training) barefoot on hard floors as this can result in foot and ankle injuries.

Start slow and progress cautiously

It’s crucial to start slow and progress in stages to allow your body a chance to adapt to the new exercise regime. Build up your fitness over the course of days or weeks and incorporate regular rest days to prevent overload.

Mix it up to prevent muscle pulls and strains

Consider combining different exercise modalities, for example, running, pilates and HIIT training. Cross-training is an important concept that allows us to condition different muscle types and body systems that can complement each other. It also prevents repetitive overload, reducing overall injury risk. Instead of going for a daily run every day of the week, consider incorporating a weights session and add a rest day of two into the programme.

Know when your body is under strain

If you feel a twinge of pain during activity, take this as a warning sign and consider reducing intensity immediately. If you feel significant pain during an activity or the following day then consider further rest and if pain persists then seek the opinion of a healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist or a Sports Doctor.

Create the right home environment

If you’re working from home, you can help to avoid injury by optimising your home office: ensure you have an appropriate computer screen height, get a chair with lumbar support and a comfortable, ergonomic desk setup.

Consider a standing or variable-height desk, which are best for your back and neck.

It’s also imperative to take regular breaks and move, stretch and ‘loosen off’ the back. Remember: ‘motion is lotion’!

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