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Home workouts - Heaven or hell?

How to exercise at home without injury

I have definitely noticed an increase in home exercise related injuries across the last year (myself included unfortunately!). With gyms closed and our options limited we've all been forced to find new hobbies and ways of keeping fit.

It’s been really encouraging to see that so many people want to keep fit and healthy but of course we want people to do this in a safe and enjoyable way. Here are a few insights into the type of things we're seeing in clinic and how best to avoid them!

Why are people more likely to injure themselves while working out at home as opposed to in the gym or studio?

The most common causes that I’ve noticed are:

- Compromising. On things like space, equipment, time, warm-ups and cool-downs.

- Being new to exercise. Lots of people are picking up exercise for the first time, whether motivated by boredom or a newly founded health awareness due to covid-19, there’s always room for error when trying out something new. Good form and execution of exercises takes time to learn, so it's important to really do research before you start and introduce things bit by bit.

- Intensity of training. Home exercise and equipment free exercise plans often revolve around HIIT which is great way to get fit but the clue is in the name “high intensity” so it can be very easy to overdo it with these types of workouts. HIIT workouts often involve a lot of high paced jumping and squatting which is tough on the knees over time! Again, good form and technique are very important.

- Frequency of training aka over doing it. With more time on our hands than ever and cabin fever being cooped up at home people are understandably keen to get out and do more. Going from running or exercising once or twice a week to daily workouts is a huge step up in demand on the body. This can lead to repetitive strain injuries, muscle fatigue and slowed repair.

What are the most common at-home workout injuries?

Knee and ankle injuries are by far the most common for me. Things like patella tendonitis, achilles tendonitis, aggravation of existing arthritis, ligament strains and simple muscle strains. In my experience these have been mainly linked to HIIT workouts, running, jumping, squatting etc and but also excessive walking.

This is closely followed by lower back complaints: facet joint issues, sacroiliac (pelvic) strains, muscle strains, the irritation of disc issues. Again, I’ve found these types of injury are often linked to HIIT workouts and running but I would also link yoga/Pilates and weightlifting in with this injury group.

How can people avoid these types of injuries?

- Do not skip warmups and cool downs. These are essential for getting the body ready to work out (especially if you’ve been sat on the sofa or at a desk all day) and vital for muscle repair and recovery.

- Focusing on your technique/form, if it means doing less reps or slowing down a workout that’s fine. Quality over quantity! Always think about maintaining the correct posture and engaging your core.

- Have recovery days. Days off are essential for tissue repair, regeneration and energy levels.

- Make sure you’ve got the correct the equipment and space around you. Simple things like having the correct footwear make a huge difference in high impact exercise.

What else should people be doing to avoid injuries during home workouts?

- It's important to know your limits, pace yourself, listen to your body. Don’t suddenly ramp up the intensity or frequency of your training program.

- Please, please, please do not train through pain or injury. If something starts to hurt, stop immediately and seek a professional opinion. It is so much easier to fix a problem in its early stages rather than 6 months down the line.

- Keep your NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) up. Regular and gentle movement is great way to keep the body in motion and burn calories without stressing the body out. Regular breaks, stretches and movement counteracts the negative effects activities like sitting which is a big predisposing factor in most injuries and postural issues

- if you’re following an online class/video or exercise program you’ve found on the internet, make sure it's developed by a professional or coming from a reliable source.

A closing statement...

Something I often talk about with patients is keeping things simple, enjoyable and making sure there is some variety in the exercise plan. For total body health and fitness, I would recommend making sure your workout routine incorporates strength training, mobility/flexibility work and cardiovascular fitness... AND REST!

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