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Staying active during lockdown & the benefits of physical activity

By author photo Laura Ford

exercise

Many of us have spent the past couple of months in lockdown and it’s no surprise that the motivation to keep fit has been a bit of a struggle. The closure of parks, gyms, fitness classes, bootcamps and outdoor group sporting activities as well as a limit to activity within your local area and household members has meant we’re left without our favourite ways to keep fit and stay active. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on our fitness goals as there are plenty of ways to keep active and stay safe during social distancing.


Benefits of physical activity

There are many benefits to including regular activity that extend beyond weight loss including:


  • Maintaining muscular strength and bone health

  • Higher energy levels

  • Reduced risk of chronic disease

  • Improved mood

  • Better sleep

It’s also important during isolation/lockdown that we find ways to maintain our activity levels as many of us aren’t getting in as much movement as we typically would. With many of us working from home and with the kids home from school, our daily commute and run-around routine is gone, meaning overall less movement in our day. For many of us, daily natural activity may have included walking to and from work, moving around the workplace to and from your desk and running around after the kids.

While it may seem easier to curl up on the couch when we’re confined at home, try to think of this time as an opportunity to set your physical activity goals and think of ways to build long term sustainable habits into your daily schedule. Whether it’s setting up a home gym, finding an app with your favourite style of activity or simply finding a way to enjoy the outdoors. Now is the perfect time to find ways to integrate physical activity into your lifestyle.


Top tips for getting started

  • If your day looks like you’re moving from your desk, to the kitchen, to the bathroom then to the couch and you’re unsure where to start, here are some tips for how to get back into the swing of physical activity.

  • If you’re new to physical activity, start slowly, set small goals and build your fitness over time as your body adjusts. This can mean starting with 10 minutes each day, then building to 15 minutes, and increasing from there.

  • Think about fun playful activities you enjoy doing and build your activity around that. If you’ve always loved dancing, why not try a dancing class on YouTube? The more fun you have doing an activity, the more likely you’ll be to stick with it and make it form part of your regular routine.

  • Break up your activity over the day. If you’ve always struggled to find time to include activity into your day, try dividing into 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes after you clock off at work.

  • Try something you’ve always wanted to try. If you’ve avoided an activity because you’re too scared to go to a group class, try it now in the comfort of your own living room. Many group classes have moved to an online offering, meaning you can get the benefits of the class without having to put yourself out there.

Exercise outdoors

If you’re working from home, getting outside for your physical activity will no doubt do wonders for your mental and physical health. If you’re not self-isolating or unwell, at this stage it is still safe to go outside to get some physical activity. Some great solo outdoor activities include walking, running and cycling and these can be done at any time of the day. However, it’s best to choose times when the streets or parks will be less congested to minimise your contact with others, so aiming for an early morning or later evening workout may be best.

If you are choosing to go outside, be sure to practice social distancing by keeping at least 1.5m apart from others, maintain good hygiene practices (keep some hand sanitizer packed), and wash your hands when you get home after being outdoors. Whether it’s 10 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour, every bit of movement counts and you will feel more energized and refreshed for the afternoon.


How to set up your own gym at home

If you’re self-isolating or prefer to stay at home, there are plenty of ways for you to stay active indoors. Setting up a home gym is a great way to maintain your fitness levels and can help keep you motivated whilst you’re training at home. Setting up your home gym is more about creating a space designed for physical activity, so don’t worry if you don’t have lots of equipment, it’s more important to think about the types of exercise you want to do and working from there. Here are some simple steps to getting your home gym set up:


Set up a designated space for physical activity

Find a space in the house where you can keep all your equipment in one place. Storing everything here means you’ll have easy access to your equipment and won’t have to rummage around and set up every time you want to work out. If it’s there and ready to go, physical activity will become a lot easier. You can setup in your garage, on the back porch, or in a spare room in the house. If you don’t have a lot of space for a full room, keep all your workout gear toge ther in one spot for easy access.


Use online workouts, apps and Youtube to find the workouts you want to do

Finding a workout online has never been easier and resources like YouTube, social media, fitness websites and gym brands all offer a variety of different options to suit your fitness level or workout style. It helps to find the workouts you enjoy doing so don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’re trying a new type of activity, start with an easier level and build up your strength to avoid injury.


Plan your workouts according to the equipment you have

While it may be tempting to rush out and buy new equipment for your new training routine, it’s likely you’ll be able to plan an effective workout with what you already have at home. It may also be difficult to find certain types of gym equipment in sports shops, so if you don’t have the equipment, don’t stress, just look up exercises that use body weight instead. You’ll be surprised how much strength you can develop, just from using your own body weight.


Set out a specific time for activity each day

Block this time out as you would an appointment in your diary, or as you would see a group fitness class on a gym timetable. Try to make it a non-negotiable appointment so you commit to your fitness goals, but also be flexible in moving that time around in the day to suit your schedule.


Don’t forget to keep it clean

Continue to practice good hygiene even when at home. Use a towel while training and regularly wash and disinfect your gym equipment.


Maintaining a consistent physical activity routine will help keep your health and fitness goals on track, so be sure to continue making physical activity a priority in your day.

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