Return to exercise

Tips on how to return to exercise classes

Simon Hanna, one of the NHS Falls Prevention Team, working across Cambridgeshire, and a member of the FA Board of Trustees advising on vulnerability, has produced the following advice before returning to exercise after another National lockdown.

Exercise classes after lockdown

I know you are all keen to get going and return to the classes you love and have missed over the last months. However, it is important to recognise that it’s been a year since you have done any properly structured exercise. You may not be as fit as you were and have found that your usual activity levels have reduced. Or you’ve had to change the type of exercise you do through home workouts or online classes.
It is understandable to feel uncertain as to how to return to ‘normal’ and increase your post lockdown exercise levels or get back to your previous activity.

Start gradually

Following any period of reduced activity, it is essential to return gradually to prevent risk of injury. Remember that you will likely have lost some fitness, so don’t expect to be able to start where you left off at the same intensity or duration of exercise. It would be best to reduce how hard you are working to allow your body to adapt to starting exercise again gradually. This is even more important if you have had Covid-19 or any long-term illness.

exercise over '50s

Long Covid effects

You may have seen in the media the latest research on ‘Long Covid’ and its effects. There is no doubt exercise will help with recovery, but you must take it easy and start at a much lower level. Your body is still recovering and needs the energy to repair itself. It will set you back and take even longer to return to your previous activity levels if you overdo things.

Inform your instructor

Your instructor must know of any changes to your health/activity levels. If they doubt that you are ready to start exercising, they may ask you to get advice from a health professional. This is all new to the exercise profession, and with this in mind, a slow, steady cautious approach is what we are being advised.

Complete the health questionnaire

Before you return to your class/es, you will be asked to complete a new health questionnaire via Forever Active Clubz. This is to make sure your instructor is aware of any precautions needed and to be able to adapt the session to ensure a safe and effective class. Please include as much information as possible when completing the questionnaire so that your instructor is aware of any concerns you may have.

Dont’ work too hard

If you feel worse after exercising, you may be working too hard. Reduce the intensity or take some time off. Make sure you are getting enough rest, plenty of fluids, and good nutrition”.

How do I start being active again?

• Start slowly and build up your level of activity over time.
• Try to do little and often, allow rest between activities and don’t overdo it.
• Reduce sitting time. Try standing up every hour and marching on the spot.
• Set yourself small goals that you can do in the day.
• Aim for a daily walk if possible. Do walk with someone until you are confident to go out on your own or take a mobile phone with you.
• Try to increase your activity levels as part of your daily routine to give your day structure.
• Don’t worry if you need to stop and rest; that’s a normal part of recovering and getting strong again.

How do I know if I’m working at the right level?

• You should be able to speak a sentence when you are exercising.
• If you feel uncomfortable at any point, stop and rest for as long as you need.
• It’s normal to feel a little breathless, warm and sweaty during exercise.
• Your muscles may ache afterwards, but this should not last for more than a couple of days.
• You may feel more tired afterwards, but it’s important to keep active to build up your fitness and eventually feel less tired.
• You may not feel as strong on some days as others, but don’t get disheartened; look at your progress week-on-week. We all have good days and bad days.

What if I have a bad day?

• It is normal to have setbacks, so don’t give up. There is no reason to feel that you’ve failed.
• Learning from your experiences helps you to set goals that are more realistic and more likely to last. This will help you to set activity goals that become part of your daily routines.
• Remember, the less you do, the less you will want to do and the less you will be able to do.

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