It is inevitable, our bodies are going to change while we are in lock down, simply because we re behaving differently. However, they do not have to change for the worse, you do not have to put on weight and decrease bone density, it is totally possible to keep active – however it will take a bit more of an effort.
Before we get started, I just want to dispell the myth that an hour of exercise a day is enough activity. If you’re inactive for 23hrs a day, you will need more than 1hr of exercise to make up for it. The trick is to balance exercise with activity, or movement. For example, you may do the 1hr of exercise that we are permitted outside everyday, but also do 3hrs of gardening, cooking, cleaning activity. If you can get a solid 2-6 hrs of low intensity movement each day, you’ll be in good stead to come out the other side of this healthier than ever.
This post is an attempt to look at the pros and cons of all of our options for movement over the coming months, including no movement! There are links to references and further reading for each point below:
- Gardening: there are several surprising health benefits to gardening, so if you have one, get ready to get dirty! As well as counting as a “physical activity” and getting all the health benefits associated with activity, gardening is also a great relaxation and meditation past-time. It is also fantastic for your mental fitness, as you have to learn new skills for each plant (indoor and outdoor), and studies show that people with a garden eat more fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spice products!
- Cooking: Harvard Health has found that the more people cook at home, the healthier their diet, the fewer calories they consume, and the less likely they are to be obese or develop type 2 diabetes. Scientific evidence supports teaching patients how to cook meals at home as an effective medical intervention for improving diet quality, weight loss, and diabetes prevention. So why not learn how now?
- Cleaning: whilst cleaning is an obvious physical activity, and will make you fitter, stronger, and healthier on the inside, there is also a powerful psychological effect of cleanliness that you may not have thought of! People with clean houses are healthier than people with messy houses. A 2010 study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin used linguistic analysis software to measure the way 60 individuals discussed their homes. Women who described their living spaces as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” The researchers also found that women with cluttered homes expressed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol…. Lie is stressful enough right now don’t you think??
- Play: with or without children! Goofing off with your partner or children will relieve stress, trigger the release of endorphins, improve brain function, stimulate the mind and boost creativity, stimulate your imagination, improve relationships and your connection to others, and keep you feeling young and energetic. Ideas include: kicking a soccer ball, playing hand ball, tag, stuck in the mud, or ninja warrior!
- Online/TV yoga, pilates, tai chi, or living-room aerobics: some free resources are in the links! These are great to keep you moving, but keep in mind that they are not specific to you. Be careful and ease in to these programs, stopping these activity if you feel uncomfortable or an unusual pain. Personally, i’d also be more comfortable if you had been cleared by a women’s health physio prior to starting any of these programs. Most are still consulting via Telehealth, and you can contact your closest one here.
- Virtual one on one: this is the best option if you need supervision, are worried about injuring or re-injuring yourself, and want accountability, which most of us do. You book a session with an actual person, who designs a program specifically for you and your needs. They then take you through it in real time, correcting your form and providing live feedback.
- Virtual group training: means you share the session with other people, but is similar to one on one in that you make an appointment with a real person in real time, and get immediate monitoring and feedback. Sharing the space with other people makes it a really nice social event as well, and reduces the cost per person.
- Outdoor one on one: is fantastic because you’re getting outside, meeting another person (other than your family members!), and have a change to move and socialise at the same time. The downside is that you use your 1hr for training (which you can do virtually from home), you can use your outside exercise time for walking, ocean swimming, riding, and get more activity out of your day! Most gyms are providing this service while we are in lock down, so enquire at your local!
- One Size Fits All Online programs: instead of moving outside, many gyms are closing completely and providing FREE sessions to their clients. One of the best i’ve found is Vanessa Leone Movement Therapist, one of Virgin Active’s leading personal trainers and MC at last year’s FILEX. These programs are FREE, but they are also very generic, and you need to have good body awareness to follow their instructions regarding form and technique. These are GREAT if you have this body awareness, are injury/niggle-free, and have been cleared by a women’s health physio for that specific kind of activity. There’s a list of trainers providing free online programs here.
- Low Cost personalised online programs: IntoYou is attempting to do this with our Life Enhancement Project. For less than gym membership, you get home based strength training, nutrition advice, cardio sessions, styling, meditation and more! The programs are “one size fits all” – however we provide the opportunity to consult with the trainer who designed the program and “tweak” it to suit your needs. This keeps the costs down, but boosts the benefits closer to those gained in one-on-one training!
- Sport: many team sports are no longer viable, but there’s nothing stopping you from taking up riding, badminton in your backyard, reviving your table tennis table, or taking up paddleboarding! Even more importantly, the cognitive benefits of learning a new skills are beyond the pale, and include increased learning capacity (ie. the more you learn, the more you are able to learn!), increased learning speed, reducing boredom, better adaptation to change, and slowing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease… interesting, huh!
- Walking only: walking is super important, and we absolutely recommend doing it daily (which is why outdoor training is off the cards for us, you need that hour for walking!). However, you also need your strength exercise, because your general activity is reduced.
Doing nothing is NOT AN OPTION. A sedentary lifestyle is on parr with smoking and obesity as a risk factor for infertility. Worldwide, it is estimated that physical inactivity is responsible for 6% of the burden of disease from Coronary Heart Disease (range: 3.2% in South-east Asia to 7.8% in the Eastern Mediterranean region); 7% of type 2 diabetes (3.9% to 9.6%), 10% of breast cancer (5.6% to 14.1%), and 10% of colon cancer (5.7% to 13.8%). Inactivity is responsible for 9% of premature mortality (5.1% to 12.5%), or >5.3 of the 57 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008. If inactivity were not eliminated, but decreased instead by 10% or 25%, >533,000 and >1.3 million deaths, respectively, may be averted each year. By eliminating physical inactivity, life expectancy of the world’s population is estimated to increase by 0.68 (0.41 to 0.95) years (reference here). Osteoporosis can occur with physical inactivity alone. Physical inactivity is also strongly associate with anxiety and depression… need we go on?
If you want to be active, but day after day are finishing the day having looked after everyone but yourself, here are our top tips for doing something during lockdown:
- Be accountable to someone: whether that’s us, a friend, one of your family members – say it out loud and ask them to follow up with you. You may even inspire positive change for them too!
- Pay money: the truth is that the free programs above a great for most people, but equally great for avoiding. There is no accountability for a free YouTube video. While it will work for many people, it will also not work for the rest of us!
- Plan: if it’s in your diary, you’re more likely to do it. If you want to try one of the free options first, my best advise is to get a friend on board and video message them at a certain time. Both of you can then do the video together!
- Get a dog: for many of us it’s easier to look after others than ourselves. A dog will give you something to walk everyday, and get you started towards a healthier, more active routine!
- Create a routine: doing your workout first thing habitually will give you a greater chance at sticking with it than “finding time”. Make your plan, stick with it daily, and you’re off to a good start!
We would LOVE to hear your feedback on what works for you over this period! Keep us in the loop!