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Headed to the Gym? Avoid Post-Quarantine Injuries After Long Periods of Inactivity

With quarantine restrictions loosening and gyms re-opening, Adam Bennett, MD, sports medicine physician with the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute says he’s seen a marked increase in patients with neck and back injuries since sheltering at home began. Why? Many people got used to working from home, and during this time, got used to less activity and not working out like they used to. Possibly they were working in an environment that lacked an ergonomically-friendly setup. He's also noticed that people are adding in intermittent workouts without proper equipment or trainer oversight – he says that’s a recipe for injury.

Runner

Bennett serves as a team physician for the Chicago Bears and U.S. Soccer, and he knows a thing or two about getting back in shape after a long period of rest. Here, he offers some tips for those who are getting back into action after leaving quarantine, which were also featured in the Daily Herald.

  1. Begin increasing your activity level now. If exercise has taken a back seat for the past couple of months, gradually begin working activity into your daily at-home routine with walks, runs or bicycle rides around the neighborhood or at-home circuit training using your own body weight. This will help your body become re-accustomed to movement and help to re-awaken some of the major muscles that may have been taking a vacation during your time away from the gym.
  2. Don't underestimate the value of warming up. Whether you've been somewhat sedentary as of late or not, warm-ups are a critically important part of every workout. Before starting any activities, spend some time "waking up" your muscles with stretches, a slow jog, or other moderately-paced cardio exercises. This will help to avoid trauma that could come from shocking your body with a high-impact activity before you ever get your blood flowing.
  3. Set realistic goals. One of the top causes of gym-related injuries is not pacing yourself. It can be frustrating to feel like you've lost ground when it comes to workouts, but what is more frustrating is having to take an even longer hiatus due to injury. The key is gradually building up the intensity of your workout each week and not expecting to dive right in where you left off in March. With patience and planning, you'll get back to your optimal fitness level in no time.
  4. Listen to your body. One important rule of thumb is to avoid pushing through serious pain. While mild soreness after a workout is not uncommon, a sudden, shooting pain or pain that is getting increasingly worse should not be ignored. Contact your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer for advice.