Online exercise – look carefully before you leap

April 16, 2020 by Lisa Bywaters0

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Exercise is vital to our health, even while we’re in iso. It helps us manage our pain, our musculoskeletal conditions, our weight (especially with all the cooking we’re suddenly doing 😆) and our mental wellbeing.

But when you’re not able to go to your usual exercise classes, gym, sporting club or fitness centre – online videos and exercise apps seem like the answer. And with most of us in some form of isolation or quarantine, there’s been a proliferation of them being shared on social media and across the internet in general.

But they’re not all created equal. Some are purely videos to watch and follow, others are apps that provide more interaction and features. Some are free, while others require payment.

So before you pull on your leotard, buy a new thingamajig or sign up to that app, here are some things to think about:

  • What are the qualifications of the leader? Are they a qualified exercise professional – e.g. physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, fitness instructor? With many fitness and wellness centres closed because of COVID-19 many qualified instructors have moved online. This is great news (for us) as there’s only so much walking we can do. But there are also lots of well-meaning people with time on their hands posting exercise videos, as well as other people looking to make a quick buck. So make sure that the instructor is qualified to teach or lead exercise classes.
  • Are they catering to the general public or people with musculoskeletal conditions? Many general exercise videos or apps will be useful for all of us – musculoskeletal condition or not – especially if they’re gentle. But there are some exercises that may actually be harmful to you. And some that you shouldn’t try without a proper assessment from a qualified instructor as well as guidance to ensure you’re actually doing the exercise properly. To misquote the tagline from Alien – “in your lounge room, no one can hear you scream”…except for the other people in your household, your pets and the neighbours (the walls are thinner than you think!). The point is it can be very easy to hurt yourself if you’re not shown how to do some exercises correctly and safely, particularly if you have a musculoskeletal condition or another health issue.
  • Which leads to our next point – can you ask questions or get more info from the instructor? If you can, it gives you the ability to ask if they’ve instructed other people with your condition, make sure the exercises are safe for you to do, and get advice if you’re not quite sure you’re doing things correctly. If you can’t interact with them in any way, maybe look for another online exercise class/video/app.
  • What’s the cost? Is it free, or is there a fee? Or can you access a free basic version, and another version with additional features which you need to pay for? Is there a free trial period so you can make sure you actually like it? And if you do have to sign-up for anything, make sure you read all the fine print so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.
  • Does your equipment support the tech? If you’re downloading an app, can your desktop, tablet, phone, watch etc handle it? Do you need to download additional software to use it? Are you prepared and/or able to do that?
  • Are you set up for it? Is your computer in a location that allows you room to exercise? If you only have a smartphone or tablet, can you view the exercise videos clearly? Is your internet able to cope with any downloads or streaming? If the answer to any of these is no, maybe look at alternatives formats such as DVDs. And with DVDs ask yourself all of these questions as well. There are a lot of good exercise DVDs and a lot of variety as far as types of exercise, but there are also a lot of dodgy ones. So take time to evaluate them carefully.
  • Is the exercise something you enjoy doing? If you don’t enjoy doing it, you’re unlikely to continue to do it. So find something that you find fun, engaging, challenging and enjoyable.
  • Can you set goals for yourself? Exercise needs to challenge you so you continue to get the health benefits. If it’s too easy, or doesn’t progress over time, you won’t see any improvements. Setting yourself SMART goals – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed – can help with this. Find out how you can create SMART goals.

There are a lot of things you can do to remain active during this pandemic and stay safe. Check out our blog about exercising during the pandemic. It has a range of different things you can do to stay active while isolated.

For more information, visit our website or call our MSK Help line weekdays on 1800 263 265. Or email helpline@msk.org.au.

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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