Of all the things Coronavirus and the lock-down have affected, our physical and mental health are at the top of the list.
It seems that even as we’ve begun to settle into the ‘new normal’ of work and family life, anxiety and depression are still on the rise. And mood, energy and motivation seem to be all over the place.
Maybe you’ve decided to try and get fit and healthy for the first time recently. Or maybe you’ve found yourself falling back into unhealthy habits again. Either way, it’s a really valid question to ask: “is it really worth the struggle to get fit and healthy during lock-down?”.
Getting fit and healthy isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the investment. Here are 5 benefits to get fit and healthy during lock-down (plus our trainer tips on how to get started).
Healthy eating, regular exercise and good sleep is shown to strengthen your immune system and leave you more equipped to fight illness by the body’s natural defences.
According to a York University study, aerobic exercise (like walking and running, star jumps or moving up and down the stairs) is shown to boost the body’s natural immunity and simultaneously improve heart and lung health. Since Covid-19 affects those with conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease most – changing a few habits to eat better and be more active could help combat these conditions and reduce risk.
Of course, this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card from Coronavirus – or any other illness. However, gradually building up with regular exercise and healthy eating habits could reduce the chances of a serious outcome for anyone. Plus, you’re more likely to bounce back to normal health after illness more quickly too.
“Aim to get a little out of breath for 20 minutes every day. This could be through jogging, cycling, or a home workout devised by your Personal Trainer. Always speak to a GP or health professional if in any doubt.”
No-one really wants to be that person on Twitter, bragging to everyone about how effortlessly they’re nailing their lockdown life goals.
However, the current moment represents a chance to finally crack open that project to … run 5k / lose half a stone / get stronger … (delete as appropriate).
Of course, the temptation to stay in, glued to our screens, whilst snacking on chocolate and crisps is still there in full force. But with so much of the old routine still in limbo, there is an opportunity now to build habits that we didn’t previously have the time or head-space to do.
In fact, making a few simple changes – like eating more plants and fresh food; or aiming for 8 hours of sleep a night; or doing three half-hour workouts a week – could start you off on a course to being fitter, healthier and happier for months and years to come.
“Reduce calories and pack your day full of healthy nutrients by ensuring one half of every lunch and dinner-time meal is made up of plant-based ingredients (vegetables, salads, beans, legumes).”
Wendy Suzuki, professor of neuroscience and fitness instructor in the US, said in a Ted Talk: “exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today”. Her book, “Healthy Brain, Happy Life” tells her story.
Physical and mental health (or body and mind) are often treated as separate things. But they’re both part of the same ‘super system’ that makes up you and me. It’s no surprise then that treating our body well affects our mental health, making us more energised, less stressed and in an overall better mood.
This isn’t just psychology though. According to Wendy, exercise, sleeping well, eating healthily and meditation all lead to positive and long-term physical changes to the brain. So it doesn’t just help you feel better – it reduces chances of illnesses like depression and dementia too.
“Start off on the right foot with a healthy morning routine. Try 20 minutes of exercise followed by 10 minutes of breathing meditation. Half an hour of self-care before breakfast that will change your life!”
‘Happy hormones’ released during and after exercise (particularly endorphins and serotonin) act as a reward system for our hard work and motivate us to do more. Basically, healthy habits inspire more healthy habits.
Moreover, when you complete something you set out to do (such as a planned home workout, or hitting your 10,000 steps for the day), dopamine is triggered in the brain. Dopamine is known as the ‘achievement hormone’ because it boosts focus, creativity, long-term memory and concentration. This acts as a reward system for good behaviour and helps you be more productive.
So if you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning (we know the feeling), try committing to freshly made meals and a handful of workouts for a week and then thank yourself as you begin to hop, skip and jump out of bed by day 7…
“Give your motivation an instant kick by writing out a basic 7-day plan that includes three new habits to commit to every day. Be sure to mark successes on a calendar or log-sheet – and ask a friend or fitness professional to help you stay accountable.”
As at-home personal trainers, we’re regularly reminded of how influential it can be when one person in a household decides to get fit. In my blog How Do You Influence Kids To Exercise? you can see how being more active, eating better and building healthy habits can have a surprising effect on young children.
Being pro-active about this can be very rewarding. According to familydoctor.org, “working together as a family to eat well and stay active can help your children build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.” This can sometimes be misunderstood as meaning, “try and get your kids to do what you already do perfectly”. On the contrary, the real reward is in moving forwards together as a family.
We can’t control how others behave (no matter how hard we’ve tried). But the knowledge that healthy habits might inspire your spouse, kids, or even friends and family is a welcome bonus.
“Introduce some healthy habits as part of your family routine. This might include sitting round the table together for meals to associate healthy food with family time. Or going out at the same time every day for a run around or game of frisbee in the park.”
There are doubtless more! But there are 5 benefits to get fit and healthy during lockdown. To sum up: it helps protect us from serious illness (#1), it helps us achieve a long-term goal (#2), improves our mental health (#3), inspires pro-activity (#4) and may positively influence the rest of our family (#5).
For more help on how to get started with a health and fitness programme, get in touch or find your local trainer here. You can also try online personal training sessions for free with a complimentary taster session to see how it works for you.