The Importance of Exercise During Lockdown & Beyond

Sport and Exercise Medicine Consultant, Dr Mike Burdon, explains why regular exercise is even more crucial to health & wellbeing during lockdown.

Life during a lockdown is certainly a massive change from normal life. PSM closed on 23rd of March for Face to Face appointments, and in the meantime, we are now conducting video consultations from home which are working really well.

Injuries during lockdown #

It seems that injuries from exercise are occuring similarly to pre-lockdown, and the vast array musculoskeletal conditions I typically see have continued similarly. However, I have seen an increase in cases of neck and back pain, with the population now working from home. Incorrect desk set ups, uncomfortable sitting positions and sitting for long periods of time seem to the main culprits. Some of my video consultations to date have included acute back pain, sciatica and various neck pain disorders that have worsened or have started since the lockdown began.

Exercise during lockdown #

Exercise is very well known to be essential for health. When compared to other risks to health such as smoking, diabetes and obesity — a lack of physical activity is proven to be a higher risk factor for some chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, various cancers and high blood pressure. Exercise is also very important for mental wellbeing with reductions seen in anxiety and depression.

With the current lockdown it is of course vital that we listen to government advice and only go out for permitted reasons. One of these is to take a daily form of exercise. I have certainly seen more runners out than normal and many people walking as well. As long as social distancing is maintained and the exercise is not coupled with sunbathing or sitting in the park, then exercise should be fully encouraged. 

Our usual advice is to aim for 30 mins of brisk exercise x5 days per week — this could be achieved through walking, running and cycling in areas close to home. The exercise should be enough to make you a little out of breath to achieve the most benefits. Of course this only applies to you if you are well — any viral symptoms including possible COVID-19 means that you must rest until you have fully recovered.

Exercise in the home can also be very useful and I applaud the efforts of personal trainers such as Joe Wicks in trying to directly improve the nations’s health. Performing body weight exercises in the home means that no special equipment is needed — we have a number of exercise classes and sessions available on our YouTube page.

Beyond lockdown #

I anticipate seeing a rise in musculoskeletal conditions over the coming months, some due to people increasing their exercise levels too quickly, some due to a lack of physical activity, and some due to working from home. In addition it is possible that as Consultants in Sport and Exercise Medicine we may see an increased rise in other health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease if the population is not able to obtain the exercise that it needs to remain healthy. 

The most important thing of course is to stay home and stay well — avoiding possible COVID-19 transmission and keeping yourself and others safe. The government is aware that they have to balance this against a lengthy lockdown that may increase physical and mental health issues.

Hopefully we will all come through this pandemic soon and life can slowly start to return to normal. Stay healthy and keep moving as much as you can!