The Importance of Exercise during Lockdown

At the time of writing this blog, our PM Boris Johnson is currently in ITU in London after deteriorating with a 10 day history of illness from Covid19. The world has not seen anything like this for over a hundred years since the deadly Spanish Flu that killed many millions. Along with all Covid 19 victims I sincerely hope that our PM soon recovers from this awful illness.
Life during a lockdown is certainly a massive change from normal life. My private clinics have currently closed and I am waiting to see if there is a part-time NHS role that may need my skills and experience. Meantime I am conducting video consultations from home with patients when needed. Patients will get injured from exercise as normal and of course the normal array of musculoskeletal conditions I normally see will continue. Perhaps even more so now, there will be increased cases of neck and back pain with the population working from home. Incorrect set ups, sitting positions, posture etc. may also lead to an increase in neck and back pain. Pre-existing conditions may be worsened. Some of my video consultations to date have included acute back pain and sciatica- plus various neck pain disorders that have worsened or have started since the lockdown began.
Exercise is very well known to be essential for health. When compared to other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and obesity- the lack of physical activity is a higher risk factor for some chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, various cancers and high blood pressure as examples. Exercise is also very important for mental wellbeing with reductions seen in anxiety and depression.With the current lockdown it is of course vital that we listen to government advice and only go out for permitted reasons. One of these is to take a daily form of exercise. I have certainly seen more runners out that normal and many people walking as well. As long as social distancing is maintained and the exercise is not coupled with sunbathing or sitting in the park then exercise should be fully encouraged. Our usual advice is to aim for 30 mins of brisk exercise for 5 days per week- this could be achieved through walking, running and cycling in areas close to home. The exercise should be enough to make you a little out of breath to achieve the most benefits. Of course this only applies to you if you are well- any viral symptoms including possible Covid19 means that you must rest until you have fully recovered.
Although clinics are quieter now with the current lockdown, I expect to see a large rise in musculoskeletal conditions over the coming months. In addition it is possible that as Consultants in Sport and Exercise Medicine we may see an increased rise in health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease if the population does not obtain the exercise that it needs to remain healthy. Exercise in the home can also be very useful and I applaud the efforts of personal trainers such as Joe Wicks in trying to directly improve the nations’s health. Performing body weight exercises in the home means that no special equipment is needed- and Joe Wicks plus many others can be found on YouTube.
The most important thing of course is to stay home and stay well- avoiding possible Covid19 transmission. The government is aware that they have to balance this against a lengthy lockdown that may increase physical and mental health issues. Meantime- stay healthy and keep moving as much as you can whilst maintaining social distancing.Hopefully the world will get through this pandemic soon and life can slowly start to return to normal once again for us all. Best wishes and good health to all.

Dr Michael S.Burdon

Consultant in Sport, Exercise and Musculoskeletal Medicine.7th April 2020.

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