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How Covid-19 has changed the way you exercise?

"In March 2020 life as we know it in South Africa changed." If I had a Rand for every time that was said or written in the past year, I probably would have a couple of 1000 rands.

But unfortunately, it is true and life for us humans changed drastically.

Covid-19 changed our lives in so many ways, from the way we socialize, our sleep patterns, our work routines and even the way we exercise.  

With the introduction of Lock-down and the rules governing it such as social distancing and wearing of masks, everything about being a social interactive being changed. 

There are several ways the pandemic has changed exercise for us. Not only the way we exercise but also where we like to do our exercise and even the reason behind exercising in the first place.  

We all know exercise is good for us, but it has never been so prevalent as to how much until covid-19 hit. According to the World Health Organization, certain conditions such as Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity and Diabetes can significantly increase the risk of severe illness resulting from covid-19. All these conditions are significantly improved or can even be prevented by taking part in a regular exercise routine. Regular exercise has also been proven to be great for strengthening your immune system. Therefore, during these times, lots of people are starting to re-evaluate their reason for exercise- not just as a tool to look good and get the ideal 'Summer Body'- but to keep our bodies healthy and prevent illness in the long term.  

During the lockdown, we saw many people trying new forms of exercise- whether it be a new online yoga class, running in circles around their garden or getting outside in the fresh air for a walk to meet up with friends. 

During Lockdown Level 5 our social interactions changed to Zoom calls and Teams meetings, exercise also went online. 

With gyms being closed for a while, many people resorted to home workouts. The online fitness industry boomed- with people tuning to all sorts of workouts in the comfort of their homes. Across the country, gym chains and instructors took their classes online to help people keep active while staying safe at home, even DSTV got in on the act and aired gym classes which almost felt like you were back in the early 90's watching Body Beat with Dr Phil Joffe again. 

But this was great, as it encouraged people to try new forms of exercise, saved people time and encouraged the fitness industry to grow and evolve. It also provided people with a great way to safely exercise in the comfort of their homes or personal spaces. Many people actually got some great results and we have come across numerous people who have lost weight and made great fitness gains by exercising and eating correctly. But as Biokineticists, we also saw the downside to this kind of training. We saw an increase in injuries from these workouts as the lack of proper instruction caused many people to do these exercises with poor form, resulting in injury.  

Then on the 23rd April 2020, Mr Ramaphosa moved South Africa down to Level 4 Lockdown which allowed people to get out of their houses and exercise outdoors, in public spaces between 6 am and 9 am. We saw lots more people getting outdoors to do their favourite exercise- it seems being cooped up indoors for months has brought on a whole new appreciation for Mother Nature. You only have to drive past the busy Newland Forrest or Constantia Nek in Cape Town on a Saturday morning to see proof of this. 

With gyms now opening and enforcing people to wear masks, many people still prefer the comfort of their home or the outdoors to do their exercise. We have seen a slow increase in the number of people returning to the gym, but this has also come at a price of wearing an uncomfortable mask. When the wearing of a mask was made mandatory in public some many exercise fanatic's complained that it was detrimental to our health and that vigorous exercise with a mask on was so much more difficult and would damage your lungs. The truth of the matter though is that an average person will not have adverse effects when exercising with a mask on. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has found that mask wearing appears to have virtually no detrimental effects during vigorous exercise (Published Nov 11, 2020)

Yes if you have a chronic lung disease such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, you should rather talk to your health care provider before attempting any physical activity while wearing a mask. But for the rest of us, the only thing that should happen while we exercises with a mask on is the feeling of awkwardness at first, but you can expect no difference in your aerobic or anaerobic performance.    

So get out there and get exercising. 

"Life, as we know it has changed" and being active, is still more important than ever now. Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of serious health issues, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Exercise is great for your immune system. Exercise will help prevent Co-morbidities and secondary diseases and help you recover better if you get COVID. 

It is very important to consult with a Biokineticist if you have not participated in exercise previously or if you are having concerns exercising correctly. A Biokineticist can help guide you through the correct exercises and especially technique and if you are recovering from an injury or a chronic condition they can provide you with the correct rehabilitation exercises to help your recovery further and get you back to health.

You can find your local Biokineticist at www.biokienticssa.org.za.