Are You Ready to go Back Into the Gym?

Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay discuss the reopening of gyms in NSW on October 11th and how to reduce your risk of injury when gyms do reopen.

Gyms are opening up soon, how exciting! But have you been keeping up your normal training at home? If the answer is no, then you will need to be careful rushing back into your pre-lockdown gym routine. Failing to monitor your exercise load after a long hiatus from exercise can lead to significantly increased risk of injury. The blog below explains why it’s important to monitor your load when returning back to your gym routine, and why you are at increased injury following a period of inactivity.

Load management

Load management is the most important factor to prevent injuries. Load management refers to the careful consideration, and planning of the total amount of physical activity that you perform within a given time frame. Calculating load is important because placing too much load on your joints, muscles and tendons significantly increases your risk of soft tissue injuries. Common soft tissue injuries that result from poor load management include: muscle tears, ligament sprains, bursitis, tendinopathy and tendinitis.

Altogether, this means that it would be unsafe to subject your body to the same program that you did before your hiatus. Conversely, taking a conservative approach would mean it may take you many months to get back to your pre-lockdown fitness levels.

Exercise Physiologists specialise in titrating the appropriate amount of load during your first few sessions back at the gym. Exercise Physiologists calculate load by taking a history of your previous and current exercise routine. Using your health/fitness goals and the FITT principle, they build a plan to ensure you regain your pre-lockdown fitness levels fast, without compromising your safety. Check out the injury prevention pyramid below to see where exercise physiologists can help.

Muscle wastage from inactivity

Physical deconditioning is a process that affects all areas of the body after a long period of inactivity. Just one month of reduced physical activity can lead to significant muscle wastage (atrophy). When regular stress is not applied to the muscle tissue, it is unable to maintain its strength and size. Following a period of inactivity, fatty infiltration of the muscle alters the alignment of the muscle fibres. Consequently, the muscle tissue is lacking full structural integrity and the increased fat cells send signals that lead to the breakdown of more muscle tissue. This affects muscle strength, increasing the risk of injury and mobility deficits. The elderly are particularly susceptible to muscular atrophy.

Gradually ramping up your return to your aerobic fitness regime is essential to reduce injury risk, soreness and undue stress being placed on the heart. This is essential as there is a rapid decline in the physiology of your body after a period of inactivity

Aerobic fitness loss from inactivity

For athletes, a decrease between 4-25% of aerobic fitness can be seen with just one month of deconditioning. For beginners, it’s possible to lose all of your aerobic fitness gains within one month. Gradually ramping up your return to your aerobic fitness regime is essential to reduce injury risk, soreness and undue stress being placed on the heart. This is essential as there is a rapid decline in the physiology of your body after a period of inactivity. Here’s a quick summary of the physiological changes that occur from inactivity:

  • 3 days = 5% decrease in blood volume. This means less blood to deliver oxygen to your muscles during exercise.
  • 7 days = 20% decrease in muscle glycogen stores. Less sugar being stored in your muscles means increased glucose circulating in your blood stream leading to increased risk of developing diabetes.
  • 14 days = 10% decrease in stroke volume. This means that your heart is pumping less blood for each heartbeat. This reduces your ability to perform tasks that use large muscle groups.
  • 14 days = 5% increase in heart rate. This that your heart has to work harder at rest and during exercise, placing increased stress on the heart.

What can you do now to reduce injury risk when gyms reopen?

Before we start, here are the current rules for sport and exercise as of the 28th September 2021. The most important thing is to start now! Start by slowly increasing your current physical activity levels to reduce your injury risk and maximise the benefits from gym equipment when it becomes available. Training should be as specific to the exercises that you intend to do in the gym as possible. For example, if you plan to do a leg press machine at the gym, try to use those same muscle groups in your training over the next few weeks. A squat uses very similar muscle groups to a leg press. The video below has some examples of exercises that can be done at home.

If you’re unsure about how to safely return back to the gym or want some advice on what you can do before they reopen, contact Longevity exercise Physiology on 1300 964 002 today. We have locations in Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista and Neutral Bay.

Written by Josh Taylor

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