How has the pandemic changed our relationship with exercise?
Research from Bupa Health Clinics shows Google search volumes about exercise have increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic
Google search data shows that many in the UK have continued to enjoy home workouts throughout the pandemic. Others have been keen to return to the gym once able to, and have been specific about what facilities make the ideal gym.
Between June 2019 and May 2021, there have been increased searches in the following terms, as seen below:
These Google increases mirror global research by RunRepeat. They revealed the UK has been especially cautious about returning to the gym before getting fully vaccinated, with many of us instead embracing home workouts and outdoor workouts.
Since 2020, the amount we exercise and where we exercise has changed. An analysis into our searching habits on Google show us that there’s also been a large increase in the number of us looking for information around muscle injuries.
Here Senior Physiotherapist Karen Gambardella shares the best ways to prevent workout injuries to your muscles, bones and joints.
With over a decade of physiotherapy experience, Karen's career has seen her collaborate with various healthcare providers over the years. Now based across two of Bupa's Health Clinics (Citi and Chancery Lane), Karen enjoys learning about new developments in the world of MSK physiotherapy, and is especially interested in Pilates and ACL rehab.
Experiencing some muscle soreness for a day or two after exercising is totally normal and actually a sign of your improving fitness. But a pulled or strained muscle is your body’s way of telling you that it wasn’t ready for the level of exercise you undertook, and you need some time to heal.
Regardless of how fit you are, you should always make the time to do a gentle warm up and cool down – this is the best way to get your muscles ready for a workout and prevent the chance of injury.
If you’ve not exercised for a while, finding a workout you love may leave you tempted to throw yourself into it. Our research found that men are twice as likely as women to injure themselves during home workouts. This shows why it’s so important to build things up slowly, gradually improving your strength and reducing the chance of injury.
Along with easing your body into and out of exercising, always make sure you’re using the right equipment for your workout, e.g. wearing the correct shoes. Whether it’s at home or at the gym, being prepared can help improve your form and prevent strains. Remember to replace any equipment or footwear once they’re worn out, too.
Lastly, try not to overdo it. If you’re in pain or tired, make sure you listen to your body and take some time to rest.
Whilst it’s fantastic to see so many of us getting into outdoor workouts, there’s truth in the saying ‘don’t run before you can walk’. To feel the full host of benefits from exercises like running, remember to listen to your body and take it easy – especially if you’re new to it, or out of practice.
Using a training plan (PDF, 0.2MB) can be really helpful to build up both your stamina and confidence, regardless of how experienced a runner you are. Additionally, teaming your runs with strength training once or twice a week can help to reduce your risk of injury.
Lastly, take a look at your footwear. Do your trainers match the shape of your feet and does running in them feel natural? If not, it’s time to think about investing in a new pair. Speak to a podiatrist, as they will be able to assess how you walk and run, using a gait analysis. They may also be able to give you advice that’s tailored to your running style and suggest the best footwear to support you during exercise.
A warm-up gently gets your brain and the muscles you’re planning to use ready for a workout. These movements increase your heart rate and blood flow, which helps to bring more oxygen to your muscles, and makes them move better.
Aim to spend at least ten minutes warming up before any workout. Incorporate some aerobic activity – like jogging on the spot, lunges and arm swings - alongside stretches and this will leave you prepared and ready. Try to follow a warm-up tutorial so you’re armed with a routine to follow each time you exercise.
Much the opposite of warming-up, cooling down helps to gradually reduce your heart rate and begin the post-exercise recovery process. Start by slowly reducing the pace and intensity of your workout; for example, if you’ve been running, slow the pace to a jog and then eventually down to a walk.
Lastly, always make sure to stretch your main muscle groups for at least ten seconds after your workout - this helps to combat how your muscles have contracted and gets your body prepared to rest. Follow this video for inspiration.