Unlocking Gyms: Over-Exercising After a Gap Can Damage Muscles

Extreme physical activity can lead to muscle breakdown. This is a common cause for rhabdomyolysis

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Flex 'em
4 min read
One should also drink a lot of water and take nutrients so that the muscles are not unduly stressed.
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After staying at home for several months, people are ready to hit the gym and restart their exercise routines again as Unlock-3 commences. But in trying to make up for the lost time of about 4 months, take care not to put so much pressure on your body that it harms your health.

There are certain things you should know before you hit the gym again after a long gap.

When 18-year-old Lakshya Bindra went to the gym, he exercised for more than 1 hour, and the same evening, he started feeling very tired and stiff, along with aching muscles and a bout of vomiting.

Lakshya's mother, Pooja Bindra, says that after coming home, he complained of pain in his hand. He could barely lift his hands to eat food.

When these problems persisted for three days, Lakshya had to be taken to Max Super Specialty Hospital in Patparganj, Delhi.

Over-Exercise Linked to Muscle Breakdown, Kidney Problems


“When the patient came to our hospital, he was suffering from acute pain in the abdomen, black-coloured urine with reduced urine output, and deranged kidney and liver function. He was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis," said Dr Dilip Bhalla, Senior Consultant at the Renal and Kidney Transplant Department, Max Hospital.

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which muscle breakdown occurs. Because of this, certain enzymes that have an adverse effect on the kidneys are released in the blood, leading to kidney malfunction.

The patient was immediately wheeled into the ICU and IV fluids were introduced to maintain hydration and provide nutrients to his muscles.

Gentle physiotherapy was conducted for several days to soothe his muscles. In addition, he needed two sessions of dialysis as his kidneys had stopped functioning completely.

Slowly, as days passed, the patient started improving. His muscle stiffness and pain began to subside gradually, as he slowly regained muscle power.

Lakshya's mother says, "We had absolutely no idea that exercising would do something like this. We had thought that exercising after a long gap had caused the pain, so we gave him painkillers and a short rest. But the pain started again. "

Dr. Dilip Bhalla says, “We do not know the timeline as to when the patient’s kidney got affected. He came to us three days after exercising at the gym. His kidney could have got damaged anytime during this period. The enzyme myoglobin released due to muscle injury leads to kidney dysfunction. If not detected in time, it can lead to eventual kidney shutdown and life-threatening complications."

“Extreme physical activity can lead to muscle breakdown. This is a common cause for rhabdomyolysis," says Dr. Abbas Ali Khatai, Attending Consultant, Emergency Medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj.

Dr. Bhalla explains,

“When you suddenly start exercising more, the oxygen requirement for the muscles is not fulfilled. But muscles need nutrition so basically it leads to alternate pathway in which muscles get nutrition in the absence of oxygen which leads to acid formation. That acid causes a muscle breakdown, and the protein that is released from this muscle breakdown reaches the bloodstream and affects the kidney.”

Dr Ali calls attention to these symptom of Rhabdomyolysis:

  • Severe muscle weakness

  • Severe muscle pain

  • Movement problems such as difficulty in moving the arms or legs

  • Muscle swelling - swelling can occur in any body part

  • Blackened urine

If you notice any such symptoms, then you should go see your doctor immediately.

Going to the gym? Take Care of These Things


Dr Ali says, "Every person’s body is different and reacts differently to exercise regimens. It is essential to know the limitations of one’s own body, stay hydrated and get proper professional guidance when exercising. "

Dr Bhalla says that if you are starting to work out after four months, then make sure to gradually increase the strain on your muscles. For example, if you are going for a walk or a jog, do not begin the activity abruptly, since that can adversely affect the heart.

Lockdown has its own problems, but so does the un-locking phase. Caution is the key and not over-doing what the body cannot tolerate. Our advice to gym goers is to warm up slowly, gradually preparing the body for the exercise program.

What Are the Signs to Look Out For While Exercising?

  • Feeling excessively tired

  • Muscle aches

  • Feeling dizzy or nauseous

“Take a gap of 5 to 10 minutes between exercises so that the muscles are relaxed and the oxygen supply is maintained. One should also drink a lot of water and take nutrients so that the muscles are not unduly stressed.”
Dr. Dilip Bhalla, Senior Consultant, Renal and Kidney Transplant Department, Max Super Specialty Hospital

Some Precautions Related to Painkiller Consumption

It is possible that you have complaints of muscle pain on beginning an exercise routine after a long gap, but Dr. Bhalla warns against the drugs that are commonly taken to reduce pain, "If you are in pain, do not take medicines that harm the kidneys. "

Dr. Bhalla advises the following for muscle pain relief:

  • Rest
  • Apply Moov or Volini gel
  • Massage a little

If a painkiller needs to be taken, take care to consume a kidney-safe pain killer so that it does not augment the problem.

Are you also thinking of taking muscle-enhancing products?

Gym goers often take muscle building products to help with body building, but one needs to be careful about these supplements as well.

  • First of all, the product you are taking must be clinically approved.
  • Take such products only under the advice and supervision of professional trainers and experts.
  • If you are consuming these products, then get a basic check up every three months because they may affect the kidneys and liver.

Dr. Bhalla explains that whatever we eat goes into the blood and then exits through the kidneys, so regular monitoring is required to check for any adverse effects on the kidneys or the body.

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