DISCLAIMER: Rules, regulations, and science about the UK pandemic may have changed since this article was written in April 2020, for updated news visit the World Health Organisation or the NHS website.

Fight The Lockdown Blues With These Accessible Activities!

Most of us don’t have access to gyms or swimming pools at home! So what can we do to keep our bodies healthy and our minds sharp during this long period of lockdown? We’re permitted outdoor exercise once daily either alone or with people we live with, providing we stick to social distancing rules. However, if you’re undergoing self isolation, you’re confined indoors. But we don’t have to give up on exercise: there are plenty of fun ways to break a sweat whether you’re isolating or not. Let’s take a look at some simple ways you can keep fit and boost your mood during quarantine.

Running

It could be the perfect time to slip on those running shoes and take advantage of the fact that streets and footpaths are now more spacious than ever!  Running is a form of vigorous activity that’s fantastic for your heart and lungs, as well as helping you lose weight and increasing bone density in some people. Running local routes combines intensive exercise with fresh air and sunlight, and it can be mixed up with intermittent jogging and walking. If you’re unable to leave the house, consider doing laps in your garden or the largest room in your home, or using a running machine if you’re fortunate enough to have one. 

If you’re a beginner when it comes to running or you’re just getting back into it, check out the Couch to 5k programme: a week by week method designed for those building their cardio back up [1].

Person in yellow trainers running, e-Surgery

Cycling

It’s not just a great way to commute to work – cycling is a fantastic form of exercise in itself. It’s a great leg workout for starters, as well as being a moderate to intensive form of cardio. It’s also really fun if you’re exploring the countryside or cycling with a housemate. If it’s been a while since you last cycled, you can start off in more open areas away from roads, such as in parks or on footpaths. If you are using the roads, always remember the Highway Code –  and of course, wherever you’re cycling, wear protective equipment such as a helmet.

For those stuck indoors, exercise bikes can grant you the health benefits of a cycling session from the safety of your living room.

Bike against wall with basket, e-Surgery

Walking

Walking is an outdoor exercise that is permitted daily during lockdown, alongside running, jogging and cycling. It’s also an exercise that can be combined with any of the above as an additional way to burn calories, or used intermittently to reduce stress on the body during a run or jog. When done briskly, it counts as a low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise – this means it can help build your stamina and keep your heart healthy. 

It’s not just a good way to keep in shape, as walking can have a positive effect on your mental health, too. Lockdown at its worst can sometimes feel like a prison sentence, which can put us in a low mood. By getting out on a walk once a day, we’re getting our bodies moving as well as taking in our surroundings – walking is one of the exercises best suited to the practice of mindfulness [2].

Yellow tulips flowers, e-Surgery

Gardening

Now we’re stuck at home, we don’t have an excuse: it’s time to do the gardening! It’s not just a chore, though. Of course gardening can be a productive and creative hobby, but it can also be a good calorie burning activity which can also involve strength training. Depending on the task at hand, gardening can range from a relaxing way to spend the afternoon to a strenuous intensive exercise. Activities such as weeding and planting can burn up to 174 calories an hour, whereas heavier exercises such as digging, shovelling and lifting can burn even more as well as improving muscle strength. Gardening is like any other exercise in that you’ll want to warm up beforehand, keeping in mind that gardening for hours can often put stress on your back and joints if you’re not taking care of your posture.

Person gardening, e-Surgery

Cleaning

You might not be having any guests round for the time being, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be keeping things presentable around the house. Keeping your home tidy isn’t just a matter of hygiene, but it’s also good for your mood. Less clutter in your surroundings can often translate to less clutter in your mind, with frequent cleaning helping to avoid tasks stacking up into a stressful heap (literally and metaphorically)! Cleaning can actually burn some calories, too. Vacuuming the house, deep cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, moving and lifting furniture to wipe surfaces – daily physical tasks such as these can actually burn up 175 calories per hour. If you’re breaking a sweat and your heart is beating faster, your chores count towards your weekly moderate aerobic activity. Keeping your house clean while keeping yourself fit: talk about multitasking!

Person hoovering a living room, e-Surgery

Yoga

Yoga has been around for a while – some 5,000 years to be precise. Originating in India, Yoga became a religious practice for many faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Yoga isn’t just a philosophical practice, however. Since its introduction to the Western world, Yoga has been utilised as a form of physical exercise that includes flexibility exercises, strength training, balance and breath control. The great thing about yoga is it can be as simple as your body and a mat, and it’s an appropriate exercise for all ages. There’s good evidence it helps cope with arthritis and prevent falls [3]

Given its rich history, there are many different styles of yoga to choose from. Try taking this time in isolation to do some initial research and watch videos of how to hold poses and follow breathing techniques. It’s an exercise you can start from your living room, and over time you’ll see the benefits it can bring, both physical and mental.

Person rolling yoga mat, e-Surgery

Pilates

Pilates is another strength and flexibility building exercise that can be done from the comfort of your home, with a dynamic range of intensity. Pilate exercises can sometimes involve equipment such as mats, chairs, hand weights and stretch bands, but others rely purely on your body. Pilates have been recommended for those suffering from lower back pain, with different exercises being designed for people with a range of conditions including knee problems and scoliosis. 

There are plenty of beginner pilates instructional videos online [4]. Start off with some low intensity body weight exercises you can do from home, and see how you feel. If you’re enjoying it, look into more intermediate intensity pilates exercises and start utilising equipment.

Trainers and fitness equipment, e-Surgery

Dancing

Now is the time to dance like nobody’s watching! Music is a fantastic tool for relaxation and therapy, but that mood boost that comes with your favourite song doesn’t just help you sink into a chair with a pair of headphones – it can get you up and active on the dancefloor (in this instance, the carpet in your front room)! If you’ve ever been to a dance class or spent all night throwing shapes at a club, you’ll know just how much of a work out dancing can be. Feel free to freestyle, or follow set dance routines available online for a structured exercise routine. Maybe get your family and friends involved and put on some tracks you can all enjoy – there are also plenty of dance based rhythm games available to play together.

Happy woman dancing with headphones, e-Surgery

Get Creative

Not everybody has a home gym. Maybe you just can’t find that old pair of dumbbells. Sometimes you have to take initiative with your environment. For example, did you know that repeatedly climbing stairs actually counts as moderate exercise, and running up them is actually considered very vigorous, as intense as circuit training? You can also use household objects such as paint cans, cartons or tools as weights. Though you should always be careful – while improvised weights can work for strength training, they aren’t designed for it, so could break or injure you if used inappropriately. Remember that body weight exercises can utilise surfaces such as chairs and walls [5]. Why not share home workout ideas with family and friends?

Yellow Tupperware on shelving

Sources

  1. Get Running with Couch to 5K | NHS
  2. Mindfulness | NHS
  3. A Guide to Yoga | NHS
  4. Pilates Video For Beginners | NHS
  5. 10 Minute Upper Arms Workout | NHS

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Covid-19 Updates General Health Mental Health Well-Being

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