Fit Brits limp to the finish line

02 October 2017
  • 10million Brits have taken part in physical challenges like marathons or ‘Tough Mudder’ style races
  • Of those, 4.5million have sustained an injury during the challenge itself or whilst training
  • Three fifths (63%) of these fit-fanatics leave sporting injuries unseen by a medical professional
  • Long-term risks of training through pain include arthritis and mobility issues


As 50,000 hopefuls receive news of a coveted place to run the 2018 London Marathon, new data from Bupa Health Clinics reveals that the nation’s enthusiasm for fitness challenges could be resulting in a wave of injuries that aren’t seen by a medical professional.

A simple work out is no longer enough for many fit Brits with one in five – over 10million[1] adults, taking part in a challenge such as an organised run, triathlon or obstacle course, often for a great cause. And it’s not just a once in a life-time occurrence, as a tenth[2] of event enthusiasts are putting themselves to the test every month or more.

According to research by Bupa, which surveyed over 4,000 people across the UK, of those taking their fitness further, 43 per cent, or a potential 4.5million people, have injured themselves either whilst training for the challenge or during the sporting event itself. However, the real concern is that three fifths[3] of those who sustained an injury never saw a physio or GP about it.

Instead, more than a third (37%) of respondents stopped training until they felt better but did not seek treatment, while over a fifth (22%) carried on regardless. Younger respondents are most likely to train through the pain; 39 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds compared to just 18 per cent of those aged 35 plus.

So big is the trend that 18 per cent admit to getting injured ‘several’ times during challenges, while a fifth[4] have injured themselves multiple times preparing for the contest.

Carrie Mattinson, Bupa Health Clinics Physiotherapist says, “It’s fantastic to see so many Brits get active and embrace the growing fitness trend. However, while the frustration of inactivity can make it tempting to grit your teeth and train through injury, remember that relatively minor things like partial tendon tears and soft tissue damage can grow into much bigger problems, causing mobility issues, long term pain and even arthritis, if left unchecked.

“Whether it’s training for a specific sporting event or just working on your personal fitness, don’t ignore your body if it’s in pain and telling you to stop. Rest for a few days, and if the discomfort persists see a physiotherapist. This is the quickest way to get you back to your routine, while preventing long term damage.”

With more people seeing exercise as ‘training’ rather than a simple work out, further results from the Bupa Clinics research show that there is some confusion about the presence of pain during or after physical activity. A quarter (27%) of Britons admit they don’t know how to distinguish between pain that suggests a good work out, and pain which indicates injury. Over a quarter[5] of people also assume that they’ve had a good session if they feel pain during or after exercise.

Carrie Mattinson, Bupa Health Clinics Physiotherapist continues: “Pain is a natural protection response. We can experience pain for something simple such as muscle tightness after exercise, or when there is something more severe happening, it’s important to get to know your body, take note of when you are experiencing pain and how strong the pain is. We want to encourage all fit Brits to keep up the good work, but never push through sharp pain and get help if it persists to ensure they stride rather than limp across the finish line.”

With more than 50 Bupa Health Clinics across the country offering pay as you go health services, it’s easy to book appointments at a convenient time and place to ensure those challenge related injuries don’t become long term issues. Offering health assessments, physiotherapy, dermatology, GP appointments and much more, Bupa Health Clinics can provide peace of mind and convenience for busy Brits, and you don’t need insurance to benefit.


The research surveyed 4,062 people over the age of 16 and was commissioned by Bupa Health Clinics and carried out by Censuswide in June 2017.

[1] Approximately 10,648,000

[2] 9% of those who have taken part in a challenge

[3] 63%

[4] 20%

[5] 27%

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