Maintaining muscle mass
Maintaining muscle is important for many reasons. As we age, frailty can make it more difficult for us to be independent and do the things we need to do each day – from going shopping to meeting our friends. Being active maintains a healthy musculoskeletal system whilst also protecting us from some diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Research also shows that strong active muscles can help prevent falls and lower injury risk.
But while it may be tempting to hit the gym and start lifting weights now that many COVID-19 restrictions have eased in the UK, if it’s been a while since you last exercised regularly, it’s important to ease back into things. Weak and de-conditioned muscles take time to build strength and doing too much vigorous, repetitive exercise can overload muscles and joints that have not been trained, leading to injury.
Here are a few ways to get moving again without injuring yourself:
1. Progress slowly.
It’s best to gradually return to activity so you don’t overdo things or injure yourself. A staged approach, where you slowly introduce different exercises, will allow your muscles to recover between each session. Beginning with basic exercises around the house is a good starting point.
Then increasing the number and type of exercises you do can also help you from getting fatigued and losing form – which are prime conditions for an injury to occur. For example, starting with a short walk that then gets longer and progresses to a hill or rougher terrain allows for slow and persistent challenges for your body to become accustomed to while still helping you stay interested in exercising.
2. Reduce the time you spend sitting.
Long periods of sitting, if you have had to isolate or if you are working from home, significantly reduces muscle activity – and therefore muscle mass. So if you haven’t kept exercising during the pandemic, you can’t expect to pick up where you left off.
Take frequent breaks between meetings and introduce a walk at lunch. Stretching and moving around after long periods of sitting prevents fatigue and shortening of muscles – which can improve posture and balance, too.