The world has been hit hard by coronavirus. Here in the UK we have just been told that our current lockdown situation will be extended by another three weeks. It looks like a similar story for a lot other countries around the world.
This means that everyone needs to stay at home to slow down the spread of the virus. For those of us living with asthma (who are not shielding at home), we can only go out:
- to get essentials like food and medicine
- to do a form of exercise once a day
- for any medical needs
- to support a vulnerable person
- to go to work, only if you can't work from home
Advice from Asthma UK to support your wellbeing while staying at home includes trying to keep active. Doing whatever physical activity you can manage will help you to keep fit and healthy during this period. It’s also claimed that exercise can help to make sure your immune system is working effectively, so that you are better able to fight off viruses and infections.
As well as the physical health benefits, being active can also help to lower stress hormones and release endorphins, which can boost your mood. Being cooped up for an extended period of time can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing, so exercise is really important to help manage this.
I would like to highlight some of the ways I have managed to adapt my exercise routine during lockdown:
I really hope that one of the positive outcomes of this situation will be the newfound appreciation for getting outside, as well as the value of sport and physical activity as a necessary part of our lives. With gyms, leisure centres and sports clubs having been forced to close, I’ve seen so many more people out with their families, playing football in the park, walking the dog, or going on bike rides. There are fewer cars on the roads so people feel safer cycling with younger children, and the reduced pollution is nice too – particularly for someone with asthma!
Now that we’ve been told that we can only go outside to exercise once a day here in the UK, I find I’m placing much more importance on that one outing – “Where shall I go?”, “What shall I do?” – and making sure I really take in the experience. I make sure to stay in the moment and appreciate all the little things that I see, hear, smell, feel, etc., along the way.
The emphasis from the government is very much on reducing non-essential travel, so exercising locally gives you the opportunity to explore what’s on your doorstep. You might find some hidden gems that you didn’t know about before – maybe a new walking trail, tucked away greenspaces, or a wildlife hotspot.
With lockdown coinciding with springtime in Europe, it means we have the opportunity to count birds and watch wildlife while out running or walking. Over the next few weeks we can observe the growth of plants and flowers and see blossoms blooming all over all the trees.
I also think that children in particular will benefit from slowing down and spending more time looking at the interesting things as they walk around their local community. This could be anything from quirky buildings to all the beautiful rainbow paintings that people have been hanging in their windows.
Of course, not everyone is able to go outside at the moment and that can make this challenging situation seem even more daunting. However, even if you are in self-isolation or stuck at home for whatever reason, there are ways you can still remain active and continue your workout routine.
If you are working from home, why not stand and walk around the house when you take phone calls, rather than sitting down. See if you can position your desk or workspace on a different floor to your kitchen (if you live in a multilevel home) so that every time you want to make a cup of tea, you have to take a flight of stairs to get your heart rate up!
If you’re lucky enough to own an exercise bike, treadmill or other home-workout equipment, there are plenty of online classes and virtual training sessions from the likes of Zwift to get you started.
Even if you don’t have kettlebells, dumbbells, weights or resistance bands, bodyweight exercises are a great option or you can use those home objects that you do have to hand. Some of my go-to alternatives include tins of baked beans, bags of rice or bottled water for hand weights; a chair to do squats or the kitchen counter to do push-ups, or lunges and step-ups on the stairs. Why not get creative and see what you can find to create your own at-home circuit?
Lots of studios and instructors are also doing daily workouts on Instagram and YouTube that you can tune into - the most well-known of course being PE with Joe Wicks every weekday morning at 9am. This is the perfect way to get the kids up and active before a day of home-schooling.
The latest campaign from Sport England, #StayInWorkOut, has led to lots of content about how to get active under this hashtag on social media and on their website. Other organisations such as the charity Women in Sport are also curating lists of online activities that target more specific groups such as pregnant women, older people or those with disabilities.
Finally, while the importance of physical activity has been brought to the forefront during this crisis (research suggests that 63% of adults in the UK say that it’s more important to be active now than before coronavirus), it is totally OK to just take a moment to sit and breathe as well! The same Sport England research has found that the majority of people (67%) also believe exercise is helping them with their mental health during the outbreak.
As we are constantly being told, these are “unprecedented” times which can feel incredibly overwhelming and lead to lots of anxious thoughts. Setting aside time for activities that can help to calm and relax your mind are equally important as those that raise your heart rate. Tune into a Yoga with Adrienne class online to stretch and refocus, or download the Headspace app for a few moments mindfulness. They even have a specific collection designed for the current COVID-19 situation that is free to everyone to access, called “Weathering the Storm”.
Stay safe and stay active.
UK/MED/20/0126 April 2020