Gyms and fitness centers typically see a rush of new clients in January and also when the weather starts getting better in springtime. This year, after a year of pandemic-related disruptions, those two trends could combine: People wanting to get back in shape and lose the “COVID-19” just in time to look better by the pool and beach.
But experts say exercisers and instructors need to be careful, or it could lead to a spike in cases of a rare but serious -- even life-threatening -- condition called rhabdomyolysis.
“We have an enormous number of people who have become less physically active over the last year or more,” says Eric Rawson, PhD, a professor of health, nutrition, and exercise science at Messiah University in Pennsylvania and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.
“We have the opportunity for some bad things to happen in terms of an increase of cases” of the condition, which is more commonly known as rhabdo. “We’ve never had such a massive reduction in physical activity like this for such an extended period of time.”
What is Rahabdo?
Rhabdomyolysis is a disorder involving muscle breakdown and damage. When muscles are injured, they release their contents, including a muscle enzyme, into the bloodstream. The enzyme can harm the kidneys and can cause kidney failure in up to 40% of cases.
The disorder is dangerous but rare. In one study, 22 people out of 100,000 were known to have it. It is easily treated but can lead to death in rare cases if it goes undetected.
The three main symptoms are:
It often happens when people are doing more of a repetitive resistance exercise than they are used to. And now, too many gym-goers could return and not realize that they are not as strong or as fit as they were before COVID-19 sent them home last March. Instructors and trainers need to make clear to newcomers that they should take it easy, stay hydrated, and work their way into fitness.
Experts advice when you start exercising after a long break: