While easing back into the routine is something you may be looking forward to as gyms, parks and sports facilities re-open, our Senior Physiotherapist Sum Qing Faye and Exercise Physiologist Angeline Kuah, offer a couple of tips on how to listen to your body, ease back into the exercise circuits and when to take those muscular pains and aches as seriously by seeking professional advice.
As eager as you may be to kick start the exercises again, consider your current health status first. Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions? Are you on a road to recovery after a bout of illness or recovering from a surgery? Have you been doing your own exercises at home or keeping up by taking long walks and jogs? Were you more sedentary during the Circuit Breaker period?
If you are undergoing rehabilitation from post-surgery or an illness, make sure you seek advice directly from a healthcare professional or your doctor before you embark on an exercise routine as each condition or operative procedure may require different guidelines. As you follow the guidelines set to continue to meet your rehab goals while improving your health, avoid implementing a routine based on your own judgement as it may hinder the expected outcomes.
Start from a shorter time at lower intensity and work your way up. Exercise routines should include a variety of flexibility, strength, aerobic and balance.
Depending on the intensity and level of exercise needed, walking, hiking or cycling can be examples of activities that families can do together.
Aside from the neighborhood paths around us, NParks also have many interesting trails at parks, gardens and park connectors for families to enjoy. These activities are great for family bonding and getting close to nature will also help individuals feel better emotionally, contribute to physical wellbeing and reduces the production of stress hormones1 that many experience during this COVID-19 period.
Consider playing games such as catch, hide-and-seek or captain’s ball. Some may also enjoy pick-up soccer or badminton. You can even create your own circuit training with stations for exercises such as skipping, jumping jacks, lunges, squats, etc. Dancing as a family can also be lots of fun and there are easy to follow virtual dance classes online. Or try doing some housework together as a form of physical activity and family bonding. Alternatively, old school games such as twister and hopscotch can be quite physically challenging and enjoyable as well.
For adults who are untrained or recreationally trained, resistance training of each major muscle group is recommended for two or more days a week with at least 48 hours separating the exercise training sessions for the same muscle group.
But before you begin any muscle-strengthening exercises, always warm up, cool down and perform flexibility exercises accordingly to minimize the chance of injury.
It is important to look out for signs of overtraining such as decreased performance, increased perceived effort during workouts, excessive fatigue and chronic aches or joint pain. This is different from delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) that develops 12 to 24 hours after an exercise has been performed and may produce greatest pain between 24 to 72 hours after the exercise. Typically, DOMS should only last a few days (usually 3-5 days)4.
There are many different types of pain and causes of pain. Generally speaking, if the pain lasts longer than expected and does not get better (or is worsening), you should immediately consult a doctor for a review.
Physiotherapists are specialized in seeing musculoskeletal (i.e. movement related) conditions. Signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal injuries include: redness, swelling, pain and difficulty moving a body part. There may also be accompanying symptoms like numbness, tingling and weakness. Such signs and symptoms could appear suddenly (i.e. from a single incident), or it could occur gradually over time.
Important Tip: Always remember to warm up before and cool down after exercises to prevent injury. Know your body’s limitations and avoid overstraining yourself. If in doubt, seek advice from your doctor or exercise specialist.
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1 Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201-230.
2 Tan, Ng & Lim, Exercise is Medicine Singapore: Exercise Prescription Guide; 2015
3 American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s Guidelines for Strength Training. https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2019/07/31/acsm-guidelines-for-strength-training-featured-download (accessed 8 July 2020).
4 American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM information on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/delayed-onset-muscle-soreness-(doms).pdf?sfvrsn=8f430e18_2 (accessed 9 July 2020)