12 Jan How to stay active during Lockdown
By Hannah Buckland, Healthy Hearts Care Planner
We’re now just over a week into another lockdown. Gyms and fitness studios have long been closed, daylight hours are limited, and the weather has become colder and unpredictable. These barriers to exercise are likely to deter even the most determined of athletes! However, there’s no doubt that exercise is more important than ever right now, for our mental as well as our physical health. We’ve put together some key reasons to stay active throughout lockdown and provided some tips for how to do so.
There are numerous benefits to regular exercise, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, colon cancer, hip fractures and falls in older adults. Exercising can also improve mental health by improving self-esteem, improving your sleep, helping you to manage stress and boosting your mood. We should therefore aim to do some type of physical activity every day. In the UK, the following recommendations are in place:
– Aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is even better!
– Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. Moderate activity will raise your heart rate and make you breathe quicker, but still allow you to hold a conversation. Vigorous exercise will make you breathe hard and fast and it will be difficult to hold a conversation. Cardiovascular exercises include walking, running, dancing, playing sport or cycling.
– Do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week. To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you need a short rest before repeating the activity. Benefits of strength training include improved muscle mass and joint flexibility, increased bone density, and improved balance.
– Reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.
It is important to make sure the type and intensity of your activity is appropriate for your level of fitness. If physical activity is new to you, start slowly and build up gradually over time. Always remember to warm up and cool down before and after exercise!
So, we know why it is important to exercise and what the recommendations are – but how do we put this into practice? With the lockdown in place, we may have to be a bit more creative when it comes to staying active. Here are some of our top tips:
– Get outdoors. Outdoor recreation is still encouraged. We know the weather can be grim at this time of year, but research shows that getting out in nature can do wonders for your mental health. Going for a walk, jog or cycle outside could therefore boost both your physical and mental health. Remember to stay 2 metres away from anyone else.
– Try some exercises at home. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need any home workout equipment to be able to build strength at home. You can use your body weight as resistance, or use tin cans, books or filled water bottles as makeshift weights! Take a look at the NHS Fitness Studio for some inspiration.
– Find exercise in your everyday tasks. Housework and gardening can count as cardiovascular exercise and carrying your shopping as a strengthening activity.
– Build activity into your daily routine. Take the stairs rather than the lift, get off the bus one stop earlier, or walk to the shops instead of driving.
– Try to find an activity that you enjoy. Use the lockdown to experiment with different forms of exercise – you’re much more likely to stick with physical activity if you enjoy it!
– Consider setting SMART short-term goals. This gives you something to work towards and build on overtime. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Signing up to our services will also give you access to our virtual gym with exercises you can do all from the comfort of your home.
We hope these tips will inspire you! Remember, some days will feel easier than others, and it’s important to note that this is completely normal. It’s okay to slow down or take a break if you need. Be kind to yourself this lockdown and don’t feel guilty if you’re not doing as much as you normally would. Focus on doing what you feel capable of and, above all, stay safe.
NHS (2019). Exercise. NHS. Available from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ [Accessed 2nd November 2020].
Nystoriak, M. A. and Bhatnagar, A. (2018). Cardiovascular effects and benefits of exercise. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 5, 135. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172294/ [Accessed 2nd November 2020].
Rhitrition (2020). Exercise and movement you can do at home. Rhitrition. Available from https://rhitrition.com/exercise-and-movement-at-home/ [Accessed 2nd November 2020].