Staying fit whilst the country is in lockdown is proving a real challenge for millions of people at the moment, but it can be done without the need for expensive equipment or a homemade gym, as Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub explores.
With indefinite restrictions on public movement continuing in the UK amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, maintaining normal levels of exercise and a healthy fitness base is understandably a bit of struggle for many right now. But is it really that important that we make an effort to stay physically active in these difficult times?
Research shows that being sedentary is bad for your physical and mental health, so staying active during any circumstance is important. Being physically active helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It also helps maintain muscle mass and bone density, reducing the risk of developing sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and osteoporosis (loss of bone density).
Physical activity also helps to keep your immune system working effectively as it flushes bacteria from the lungs and airways, increases white blood cell circulation and raises body temperature, all of which help the body fight infection.
As well as the physical health benefits, keeping active is a great way to ward off some of the psychological issues associated with being cooped up for an extended time. Being active helps lower stress hormones such as cortisol and promotes the release of feel-good hormones, such as endorphins.Many people exercise in a gym or go for a run in a local park, so being forced to spend long periods of time at home is going to pose a challenge for remaining active. So what can we do to ensure we make the most of the situation and keep ourselves fit and healthy?
First, if you are not in self-isolation and are allowed to venture outside (as people without coronavirus symptoms in the UK can, but just once daily), then regular walking, running or cycling is a great way to stay active. Just be sure to keep a distance of two metres away from other people and make sensible decisions about routes that you take.
Indeed, steady-paced walking for 30 minutes each day for five days reduces the risk of several illnesses, including depression. It is known that 9 out of 10 people who walk regularly report improvement in their mental health. Walking is also an excellent way of guarding against future health issues and conditions.
But even if you are stuck at home, there are ways you can stay active and continue to exercise, and some of these require very little or no equipment. If you are lucky enough to own an exercise bike or treadmill, then you will already be accustomed to this in-house way of keeping fit. But if these are not possible then any activity that raises the heart rate is good for cardiovascular health.
For example, you could try walking briskly around the house or up and down the stairs. And when you’re on the phone, why not stand or walk around, rather than sitting down? Dancing is also a great way to keep active, especially with children, so putting on some music for 10 to 15 minutes, two or three times each day can really contribute to the daily exercise quota.
Alternatively, you could dig out that old skipping rope from the garage, dust off those long-forgotten fitness, yoga, tai chi or pilates DVDs, or use the many apps and YouTube videos promoting physical activity (such as daily home PE lessons with Joe Wicks). If you have a back garden, you could kick a football about with the children for a while, keep moving by watering the plants or finally get round to that job of digging up the weeds.
If you’ve got the self-discipline and motivation, you could try doing regular 10-minute home workouts to improve your general fitness and tone your stomach, legs, arms and buttocks. Taking it up a notch, cardiovascular health and strength can be advanced by participating in gym-free workouts. There are also various sitting exercises, strength exercises, balance exercises and flexibility exercises which can be performed from home.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, resistance exercises can also help strengthen muscle and improve mobility. Some of these exercises can be performed using weights or resistance bands, but if you don’t have access to them, that shouldn’t stop you. Squats or sit-to-stands from a sturdy chair, push-ups against a wall or the kitchen counter, and lunges or single-leg step-ups on stairs are all great for those new to these kinds of exercises.
You could even put your tins of baked beans, bags of rice, bottled water or flour to good use. They make great dumbbell substitutes or, if you tie them up in a carrier bag, you have an improvised kettlebell.
If the thought of all that just sounds too much, there are simpler ways for people of all fitness levels to remain active. Even tidying up, doing the housework or having a clear-out can involve quite a bit of movement and exercise without realising it. Keeping moving, even in a lesser way than normal, can undoubtedly burn calories and help you feel better during times when you are able to go out much.
If you would like further advice and support in relation to keeping physically active during the coronavirus lockdown, contact the Cumbernauld CHaT (Community Help and Talk) Service on 07940 569527 (between 9am and 9pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All in Fitness, a tenant of Cornerstone House Centre, has improvised whilst not being able to provide face-to-face classes by rolling out a timetable of online family friendly one-hour fitness classes for Cumbernauld citizens every Monday to Thursday and Saturday. Sessions available including Boxercise, Family Circuits, Bootcamp @ Home, Zero Equipment Circuits and AIF to the Core, with most classes costing £5 per session. For more information or to book classes, contact Martin Murray on 07870 225226 or email email@example.com.