It was on March 11 that the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. In the many (m-a-n-y) months since then, most of us have experienced some form of restriction: shelter in place, quarantine, stay-at-home orders, isolation, lockdown.

Whatever you call it, extended periods of isolation can have some less-than-desirable effects on your physical fitness and mental health. We’ve taken 6 of the most common problems or bad habits you may have picked up in isolation, and found the fixes you need to get back on track.

1. Muscle loss

With gyms closed and the dumbbell supply chain in tatters, unless you already had a pumpin’ home gym set-up, there was little chance your gains were going to stick around. While the rates of muscle mass and strength loss vary from person to person, research indicates you can lose up to 70% of what you gained in just 3 months of inactivity. And it’s tough to hear, but the more muscle mass you have, the more you lose.

How to fix it:
First of all, don’t beat yourself up if you have to resume your lifting routine using lower weights or doing fewer reps than you did before.

The good news is that muscle memory is real and backed by science. It’s actually easier to regain what you’ve lost than it was to gain it in the first place! You may not have been lifting as intensely and regularly as you did before, but if you’ve continued working out at home with other sessions like Plyo or HIIT , you will have maintained a good level of strength. This will make your return to full throttle resistance training a whole lot easier.

2. Reduced aerobic capacity

Found yourself out of puff halfway up a flight of stairs that you used to leap in a single bound? This is what happens when gyms close, your running group goes on hiatus, you stop walking to work and your incidental exercise disappears. It only takes 2 weeks for a regular runner to lose aerobic capacity – and wipe out gains from several months of training. What about if you’ve been on the sofa for, um (checks watch), most of the year? It varies depending on how fit you were to begin with, but in general it takes 2–8 months of inactivity to lose ALL cardio gains.

How to fix it:
There’s no way around it, you’re just going to have to get back in the ring to get your heart and lungs pumping.

Those first few rounds are bound to be tough, but remember it only takes 3-4 weeks of training to increase your oxygen consumption rate (and therefore your cardio fitness) by 20-30%. You’ll be back to jabbing and ducking like a pro in no time.

3. Comfort (over)eating

It wasn’t just the sourdough and banana bread baking crazes that had us eating our way through this topsy turvy year. We’ve been eating for comfort, eating due to proximity to our fridge, and ordering takeout rather than, you know, actually going out.

How to fix it:

  • This is all about reinstating the healthy habits you lost down the back of the sofa. Start with a cleanout of your pantry and fridge, then restock the stuff that makes you healthy and happy.
  • Many of us turn to food to cope with overwhelming feelings, and this has been a pretty overwhelming year. Try these tips to stop eating your feelings.

4. Terrible posture

Sadly, months of less walking, more time on the sofa, loss of core strength, and working from home with a less-than-ergonomic set up takes its toll. And it’s not just the slumped posture, it’s the pain in the neck, back, glutes, legs and head that comes with it!

How to fix it:

  • If you’re continuing to work from home, make adjusting your home desk setup your first priority. Better late than never.
  • During any long period of sitting (whether that’s your work day or a Netflix binge), take regular breaks. Get up, stretch, walk around, bust out 20 push-ups. Whatever it takes.
  • Try Pilates and yoga sessions and make them a regular part of your routine to boost your full-body mobility, strengthen supporting muscles and improve your posture.
  • Focus on rebuilding your core strength.

5. Not enough sunlight

Spending less time outside means you’re getting less sunlight. And depending on where you live, this likely means you’re not getting enough vitamin D – which is essential for healthy bones and muscles. A lack of sun can also affect mood, leaving you feeling flat and lethargic. Sigh…

How to fix it:
If you can, take your breaks outside. Go for a walk in the morning before work, or at lunch. You can take your workouts outside, too!

While sunlight is the best (and cheapest) source of vitamin D, you can also get it from oily fish like salmon, and in supplement form (but note that scientific opinion on the effectiveness of supplements is mixed).

6. Social awkwardness

Before our heads were digitally inserted into Zoom boxes, we used to ‘catch up’ with people in the flesh. Hard to believe, isn’t it? You may be feeling anxious about seeing your friends and family after so much time apart. And how awkward is it going to be running into someone when you literally have a year of nothing to talk about?

How to fix it:
There’s no real trick to this. If you run out of things to talk about after giving a blow-by-blow of your fitness journey, just laugh it off and remember: everyone is in the same boat (and sweatpants.)

Social interaction is something we get better at with practice. Just like your muscle mass, a bit of work and you’ll be back to full strength in no time.