Easing back into exercise

Monday, 6 July 2020

There is no denying COVID-19 has been challenging for many Australians, and those across the world. Regardless of geographic location we have all felt the impact of the current situation in one way or another. You may have been impacted by unemployment, an inability to connect with close friends and family or accessing certain services.

While it has been challenging, there are also some positives we can take from the past months. For many it was an opportunity to stop and realise the importance of their health, good personal hygiene, enjoying outdoor activities, and having more time to create healthy recipes to share with the family. Time to rest, breathe and reflect.

Many of us have learnt to adapt with the current situation utilising makeshift equipment in the home to simulate a gym based setting, or following group based exercise sessions via online video conferencing platforms such as zoom. Bottles filled with water or sand, resistance bands, skipping ropes, exercise balls, towels or exercise mats were all great options that became staples for many during isolation.

Now that most gyms are re-opening across Australia, many of you may be looking forward to resuming your previous regime. However, there are some important things you should consider before jumping straight back into it!


Personal hygiene

Individuals living with diabetes aren’t necessarily at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, however you are at greater risk of complications if the virus is contracted. The good thing is we can all take steps to manage our own personal hygiene and ensure the health of those around us by maintaining social distancing principles. These include maintaining a 1.5-2m distance between others and washing your hands regularly with warm water and soap for 20-30 seconds. Avoid touching your face while outside the house and, if using exercise equipment in a public space, remember to use a towel and wipe equipment down with sanitising spray or wet wipes after each use.


Winter months & dealing with respiratory issues

As we enter winter, exercising with respiratory conditions like asthma can present some obstacles for sufferers. When engaging in physical activity your ventilation rate and heart rate increase with added demand for oxygen by working muscles. For people living with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) respiratory function and involvement in structured exercise can be impacted particularly during the colder months.

Exercise and cold air are both triggers for individuals with Asthma or COPD, therefore it is important to consider the following:

  • Start exercise with a graded warm up that increases body temperature, progressively elevates your heart rate and breathing rate
  • It is a great idea to conclude your session with a gentle cool down
  • Avoid exposure to pollen and pollution where possible
  • Ensure you have an action plan in place for your asthma
  • Just as you would with your hypo treatment, if you suffer from asthma it’s important to ensure you always have your Ventolin inhaler on hand
  • Talk-Sing-Test – Aim for a moderate intensity, whereby you can hold a conversation during exercise but can’t sing!

Start small and build up!

As the old saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, so neither should your physical fitness. Resistance bands or makeshift hand weights using drink bottles are fantastic options for a home setting, however may not provide the same stimulus that other gym based equipment does. It is important to ease back into structured exercise. Start with one or two resistance training sessions each week and work up to three or more days as your strength and physical fitness capacity improves.


Flu Shot

Flu vaccination is important for individuals living with diabetes as they are at increased risk of developing serious flu complications. Having a flu vaccination each year before winter arrives is the best way to prevent the flu. Additional measures to ensure respiratory hygiene can help to prevent the spread of flu particularly in a gym setting where droplet transmission is of increased likelihood. It is important to remember to stay home and seek medical advice if you feel unwell. Call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

If you have an concerns regarding your diabetes management and exercise during the winter months, call the NDSS helpline on 1800 637 700. A team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists and health professionals are there to help!


Author: Hayden Kelly, AEP

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