Covid-19 has impacted us all globally with travel restrictions, isolation, and social distancing, changing the way we live including our levels of physical activity and poorer eating habits with food delivered to your door at the touch of a button to avoid social interaction in busy supermarkets.  This has resulted in, as most people would refer to as the new “Covid-bod”. These changes have accelerated changes in the body composition from increased body fat, loss of muscle tone and mass which can lead to more chronic changes such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and poor mental health in the long term.

Before the term quarantine and lockdown became common phrases, The World Health Organisation recommended a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, consisting of strengthening exercises at least twice weekly. These targets were not being met and now in the age of a global pandemic, it has never been easier to come up with an excuse to be less physically active.

Loss of muscle volume and strength has been demonstrated after only two days of immobilisation and inactivity with 5.5% further loss at seven days. Another possibility of reduced physical activity is the impact on appetite. The “Gravitostat” model indicates cells within the body are capable of detecting changes in body mass and affect appetite to maintain and set body weight.

Increased sedentary lifestyles reduce the effectiveness of the system leading to overindulging and weight gain. This is thought to be related to a lower intake of protein due to consuming increased processed foods leading to compensatory increasing energy intake in an attempt to maintain high protein intake. This leads to a cycle of muscle loss, increased appetite, and increased fat mass. The reduction in activity can also impair sleep quality and duration impairing appetite, weight control, and muscle mass loss.

As a physiotherapist, it is important to factor in all components of physical and mental health and think holistically to achieve the best possible outcomes. With growing research highlighting the positive effects of exercise and emotional health including stress anxiety and depression about physiological and violent biochemical mechanisms such as endorphins in your transmitters, there’s never been a better time to look after our well-being holistically.

One key component to maintaining physical activity is to select an exercise activity you enjoy. It’s one thing to increase activity levels because you are told to however research shows adherence and compliance are much higher when performing activities you enjoy. Gyms are currently closed, our homes are now our offices and our work hours have become blurred therefore it is important to add some structure to allow time for our well-being. That includes taking time for regular exercise.  For those who want to squeeze in intense exercise over a short period of time for busy days, there is the option of HIIT classes. This combines intense aerobic activity and some strengthening designed to raise the heart rate quickly and maintain it for a short period of time supposedly to improve the efficiency of fat burning.

Others choose yoga or Pilates. Both are grounded with similar principles of core strength and stability with Pilates having more emphasis on general strength mobility and flexibility as yoga tends to combine physical strength and flexibility incorporating some spiritual component allowing for an element of meditation.  HIIT and yoga classes offer a structured routine that is easy to follow takes a little space and requires little to no equipment other than a towel and a mat.

For those that want variation here is a selection of exercises to target all the major muscle groups reintroducing interactivity in the comfort of your own home requiring nothing but your body weight:

Lower Body:

Shoulder Bridge –

This exercise works the posterior leg muscles including the glutes and hamstrings. It also works the abdominals (including the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis), and the erector spinae (back) muscles. As you work into the bridge you also might feel a stretch through the quadricep (thigh) muscles. There are other more advanced variations of the bridge exercises that would also work the hip flexors and oblique muscles.

Muscles targeted:

The bridge exercise is good for strengthening the glutes, hamstring, back, and abdominal muscles as well as mobilising the spine. It is a good exercise for back pain, hip pain, pelvic and knee pain as it works to build strength in these areas and flexibility. The bridge exercise can also be good for mobilising the hip and knee joints.

Squat – progression to Lunge Squat/Walking Lunge

Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, calves

Straight Leg Calf Raise

Muscles Targeted:  gastrocnemius, tibialis posterior, peroneals, and soleus muscles of the lower leg

Core:

Plank

Muscles Targeted:

The plank is a classic exercise that works your muscles from head to toe, though you’re balancing your body weight on your arms and toes, most of the work in a plank is done by your core. In particular, your rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis are utilized. In particular, you’re targeting your quadriceps (front of thighs) and gluteal muscles (buttocks), which are attached to your abdominal and lower back muscles. Collectively, these muscles help stabilize and strengthen your hips

Ab Crunch:

The primary muscles targeted by this exercise are the rectus abdominis, transverses abdominus, and obliques

Superman:

The superman exercise is an effective and efficient exercise for people of all fitness levels. It targets your lower back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and abs. What’s more, it complements other core exercises

Upper Body:

Push up:

Push-ups target the chest, shoulders, and triceps and work your core, back, and legs

Modifications:

Modified on knees

Diamond Push-ups

Incline/Decline Push-ups

Tricep Dip:

Muscles Targeted: In addition to the triceps brachii, dips use the anterior deltoids in the front of the shoulders and the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor of the chest as assisting muscles. This exercise also engages the rhomboids of the upper back, the latissimus dorsi that runs along the back of the ribs, and the levator scapulae, a small muscle along the neck. The biceps and the lower portion of the trapezius muscle of the upper back stabilize your joints as you dip down and push back up.

Combination/CV:

 Burpees:

Burpees challenge many muscles in both your upper and lower body as well as your core. One of the benefits of burpees is that they do not require any extra equipment and can be part of a challenging calorie-burning cardio routine.  With burpees, the focus is on a full-body calisthenics workout that aims to build muscle strength and endurance in both your lower and upper body. A standard burpee exercise works to strengthen the muscles in your legs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, arms, chest, and shoulders

Harvard Health Publishing estimates the calorie burn doing calisthenics, such as burpees at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes is:

  • 135 calories for a 125-pound individual
  • 167 calories for a 155-pound individual
  • 200 calories for a 185-pound individual

If you increase your exertion to vigorous intensity, calorie burn increases to:

  • 240 calories for a 125-pound individual
  • 298 calories for a 155-pound individual
  • 355 calories for a 185-pound individual

Plyo Lunge:

A plyometric lunge is a calisthenics, cardiovascular, and plyometrics exercise that primarily targets the quads and to a lesser degree also targets the calves, glutes, groin, and hamstrings.


DAVE WOODWARD, LANE COVE_ORS

David Woodward

Learning and Development Manager- Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology and Workplace Rehabilitation and Health

David has 19 years’ experience working for the NHS in the UK as a physiotherapist, specialising in spinal conditions and neurosurgery before relocating to Australia. After completing his Masters in Advanced Practice he worked as a Service Manager in a Neurosurgery Specialist unit. David has worked as a team leader across many settings within public health and brought his advanced practice knowledge and skill to work as a Team Lead working in the Australian health sector including workplace rehabilitation, NDIS and DVA. David has also worked as an Honorary Lecturer for the University of Liverpool lecturing on the under and postgraduate programmes.
David has a passion for service development through innovation and nurturing the development of staff and service users alike.