The effects COVID has on exercise

We look at the effects COVID-19 and lockdown had on how people exercise.

COVID-19 changed our lives in so many ways, from the way we socialise, our sleep patterns, work routines and even the way we exercise.

We know exercise is good for us, but it’s never been as apparent since the onset of COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization, certain conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes can significantly increase the risk of severe illness resulting from COVID-19. All these conditions are significantly improved or can be prevented by regular physical activity.

Regular exercise has also been proven to strengthen the immune system. Therefore, during this pandemic, many people started to re-evaluate their reason for exercise. Not just as a tool for aesthetic appeal, but to keep themselves healthy and prevent illness in the long-term.

Lockdown injuries

During lockdown, many people tried new forms of exercise: new online classes, running in circles around their garden or getting outside in the fresh air for a walk. Across the country, gym franchises and instructors took their classes online to help people keep active while staying safe at home.

Many people had great results, such as significant weight loss and fitness gains at home. But biokineticists saw the downside to this kind of training. We encountered patients with injuries from these workouts, sometimes due to lack of proper instruction from qualified instructors, and incorrect training methods, or poor biomechanics.

Exercising with a mask on

With gyms now open and enforcing people to wear masks, many people still prefer the comfort of their home or the outdoors to do their exercise.

When the wearing of a mask was made mandatory in public, many exercise fanatics complained that it was detrimental to their health to do vigorous exercise with a mask.

A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has found that mask-wearing appears to have virtually no detrimental effects during vigorous exercise. Although, if one has a chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you should talk to your healthcare provider before attempting any physical activity while wearing a mask.

After-effects of having COVID

Many infected by COVID-19 have struggled in returning to their usual exercise regime. For a small yet significant number of these patients, the road to recovery has been protracted, with patients suffering from ‘long COVID’.

One symptom study revealed that at four weeks, 1 in 7 patients, and eight weeks, 1 in 20 patients are still suffering from at least one debilitating COVID-related symptom. This includes fatigue, dyspnoea, chest pain, muscle pains, amongst other multi-system symptoms that can last for many months.

These symptoms can impact return to usual exercise activity, and therefore require a multi-disciplinary approach in return to activity. Some patients may have prolonged rehabilitation needs for up to three to six months after recovery.

Returning to exercise

The rehabilitation and return to exercise guidance monitored and progressed by a biokineticist would focus on activities of daily living, return to function, and then exercise.

Return to exercise guidelines are likely to adopt a more cautious and prolonged timeline in non-athletes, which takes into account their baseline health, premorbid function, rehabilitation and occupational needs.

Biokineticists may be able to offer unique skills and help coordinate individualised rehabilitation plans for patients. This could involve undertaking biomechanical assessments, prescribing exercise and reviewing patients holistically in a multi-system approach.

The article was written by Avinesh Pursad, Olivia Bloomer and Wendy Vermaak on behalf of BASA.


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