With all the advice about staying at home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), you may also be hearing a lot about how you need to stay active during this time. If you’re confused or unsure of what you can do, you’re not alone - but there is lots of information and advice available to help you, and to keep you active and healthy.
Why is it so important to keep active right now?
Staying at home for long periods of time will almost certainly cause you to reduce the amount of physical activity you undertake during the day. For this reason, you may have to make more effort to fit some activity into your schedule.
Physical activity has great benefits for your overall health, including your mental health and wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation states that it can increase your mental alertness and energy, and can help improve your mood. Regular physical activity can also help to reduce stress and anxiety – this may be particularly important for people right now.
What is the advice from the Government and other organisations?
The World Health Organisation has stressed that people who are staying at home more should still be keeping active. And the UK Government guidance acknowledges that getting outside for exercise is important. If you are well and healthy, with no symptoms of coronavirus, then you can go outdoors to exercise – that could be a walk, run or cycle. Even if you are self-isolating when you do have symptoms, the guidance says that once you are well enough you can go outside to exercise. Of course, you must be sure to keep at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people.
What if I can't go out?
If you can't go out, or are staying inside to reduce your risk of becoming infected, then you can still be active around the home. A lot of people and organisations right now are publishing suggestions and videos about adapting activity to an indoor setting. One example is Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust, who are collecting and sharing great ideas on social media using the hashtag #StayInWorkOut.
If you have children with you at home, then they might like to get involved with Joe Wicks, “The Body Coach”, who is giving free online PE classes on YouTube every weekday morning at 9am. He also has shorter sessions adapted for older people and people who are less able to stand.
There is a wealth of content available online if you want to find something that works for you.
Keep safe while staying active
If you have a neurological condition then it may not be so easy for you to be active as it is for other people. During this time, you may not have the opportunity to discuss with your healthcare team so if you have not been active before, then you should be careful about choosing the right activity for you.
If you are less able to stand or if you have problems with dizziness and balance then chair-based exercises may be a safer choice for you.
The We Are Undefeatable campaign aims to help people with long term conditions to become more active. Their website has lots of information to help you get started, as well as inspiring stories based on people’s real life experiences.
Some general tips for starting a new activity are:
- Choose something that you enjoy, and that you are more likely to continue doing
- Don’t do too much at the beginning. Start slowly and for shorter amounts of time, until you are more confident that it is the right activity for you
- If you are exercising at home, make sure you have a clear space so that you don’t trip or bump into anything
- Warm up with gentle stretches, and stretch to cool down afterwards
- Make sure and have some water nearby to keep you hydrated
The Live Well section of the NHS website has information on exercising safely, as well as suggestions for 10 minute workouts and gym-free exercises (including chair exercises). They also have a “fitness studio”, with over 20 instructor-led videos ranging from 10 to 45 minutes. They include aerobic, strength and resistance exercises, as well as yoga and Pilates. Some videos have been designed for people with particular health conditions, or with limited mobility.
Other charities may also have online videos or information about activity for people with your particular neurological condition.