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Can Doing Too Much (or Not Enough) Exercise While Sheltering at Home Be Harmful?

Dustin J Schuett, DO, FAAOS

Dustin J. Schuett, DO, FAAOS

Any views or recommendations shared in the Ortho-pinions blog are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The importance of regular exercise for overall health has been well known for decades. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days per week, combined with a well-balanced diet, can help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your heart, improve lung capacity and reduce your risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even some types of cancer. Weight loss and regular cardiovascular activity have been shown to decrease joint and back pain and may also improve your ability to handle some of the many stressors that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic—such as home schooling and employment uncertainty.

Of great importance in the current pandemic, studies have shown that people who exercised regularly were less likely to die during a flu epidemic than individuals who did not exercise or who rarely exercised.

Walking, biking, hiking and swimming are great examples of low-impact cardiovascular activities. However, in most parts of the country, health clubs, pools, gyms, trails, and parks are closed—leaving many Americans scrambling to maintain their workout routines. Hi-tech home-based fitness companies that connect users to live and on-demand spin and fitness classes have seen a significant spike in sales in past weeks as active individuals seek out ways to exercise at home.

Can you overdo it on exercise? Absolutely! If you are starting a new exercise program, a gradual ramp-up of activity is the best plan. Doing too much, too fast, can result in stress fractures or other musculoskeletal injuries and can even weaken your immune system.

A good way to start an exercise program is to begin with 20 to 30 minutes of an aerobic activity, such as walking, 2 to 3 times per week, then gradually ramp up the duration, frequency, and distance over the course of several weeks. If you already exercise regularly and wish to ramp up your activity level, a gradual stepwise increase of 5 to 10 percent per week is usually a safe plan.

If you have any type of preexisting medical condition, you should always consult your primary care physician before beginning an exercise program. Warning signs to watch out for during activity include chest, bone, or joint pain and/or shortness of breath.

Learn more: Exercise Walking

Last Reviewed

April 2020

Contributed and/or Updated by

Dustin J. Schuett, DO, FAAOS

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.