Newfound time to exercise? Watch out for stress injuries

Parks, jogging trails and bicycle paths are busy places as some people indulge in exercise, one of the essential needs given an exception under stay-at-home orders issued in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Individuals used to regular workouts at the gym have reverted to exercising at home, whether it be jogging through the neighborhood or taking long walks.

Others who have found themselves suddenly stuck at home may be undertaking a new regime of exercise for the first time, looking to both improve their physical health and reduce the stress of isolation.

Both those devoted to regular exercise and those who may be just picking it up could likely benefit from the wisdom of Dr. Marc Connell, who was the Washington Wizards head physician for 21 years. Connell is also the former head team physician for the Washington Mystics and a team physician for the Washington Capitals.

He’s urging those who choose to exercise to be careful. There are a variety of exercise-induced overuse injuries, Connell said.

Dr. Marc Connell talks about how to avoid injuries while excising at home.

“Stress injuries, unlike traumatic injuries, can take a while, days or even weeks, to manifest themselves and inhibit our exercise program,” said Connell, who practices at D.C.-based Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

But there are ways to reduce the risk.

“First, warm up, stretch, walk briskly or jog slowly before attempting vigorous exertion,” Connell said.

He recommends carefully measured exercise goals, increasing the amount of exercise in modest increments.

“A very nice metric to follow is don’t change anything in your exercise program on any given day by more than 10%,” Connell said.

It’s also better for your body if you mix things up.

“Walk or jog one day, bicycle the next, do different calisthenics each day that focus on different areas of your body,” Connell said.

He also recommends a rest day after three or four days of exercise as a good way to reduce the risk of stress injuries.

Before you bolt down the street for a 2-mile jog, be sure to wear the right shoes.

“Nothing is quite as important as footwear for weight-bearing exercise … including walking or jogging. You wouldn’t go for your daily jog in flip-flops, for example,” he said.

Connell also warns about exercising on hard surfaces. For example, for any physical activity that involves jumping, he recommends it be done on a carpeted surface or a turf field.

Other routine ways to avoid overuse muscle strain injuries are stretches before and after exercise. Applying warm moist heat before a workout is helpful, and icing muscles after exercise can also help.

It’s also wise to not ignore stress injuries with hopes that they will go away, he said.

Connell said there are many sports medicine doctors, personal trainers and physical therapists providing telemedicine through video conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the doctor is a sports medicine expert and accustomed to treating elite athletes, he thinks gardening is also pretty good exercise.

“Even gardening is good for heart rate elevation, as well as your psychological well-being,” he said.

More Coronavirus news

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up