How to Stay Fit in Lockdown
During COVID, it is more important than ever to build up our physical fitness – not only to improve our immunity but to improve our mental health, which in turn… improves our immunity.
It’s nothing new to hear that our mental health and physical fitness are intrinsic to each other. Study after study shows that staying fit helps you maintain mental balance, and being in a good mental state improves your resilience and resistance to disease.
During Covid, it is more important than ever to build up our physical fitness – not only to improve our immunity but to improve our mental health, which in turn… improves our immunity.
As most people have discovered, though, the toughest thing is trying to find the motivation to get out when your head is wrapped up with the stresses of the situation, and worse, in winter, with frequent miserable weather and darkness setting in before the end of the working day.
You may not normally be particularly active, or you may be a super-fit athlete who normally works out in the gym five days a week. Without the structures of gyms, sports centres, classes, clubs or competitive events, even the most sporty person can slip into despondency and lack of motivation.
Simon’s tip: It’s vital to keep our body and mind healthy to come out of this lockdown physically and mentally strong. I am currently looking at indoor spin bikes and rowing machines. I want to get a daily workout in before going to the clinic each morning. It will also keep me healthily entertained in the evenings on those cold days with gyms closed.
Just do it – Prioritise Workouts
The best way to motivate yourself, as Nike so clearly nailed it, is to ‘just do it’. There are all sorts of tricks to help you put a workout in your schedule. For many people, if you don’t do your workout first thing, the excuses and distractions build up throughout the day, and all of a sudden, it’s too dark and you’re exhausted from the day’s work / looking after the kids.
One way to avoid this is to set an alarm to get up a bit earlier than usual. If you’re stuck at home, remind yourself that you might normally have had to wake up much earlier to get to w
ork or do the school run – so it’s not a major struggle.
Non-morning-exercise people might find it better to set a timer to stop in the middle of the day and do your workout.
If you are used to going to the gym after work, it can be a good idea to get in your workout gear and keep focusing during the day on when you will start the workout. Stay positive about the benefits and don’t let yourself sink into negative thoughts about how tired, weak or stressed you feel.
Force yourself to walk, run or cycle to do your errands, rather than drive. Remember that, even if it’s grim out there, you’re likely to have a warm house and a hot shower to come home to…. It’s just a little bit of hardship for a very positive reward.
Be Specific in Your Goals
There is plenty of advice out there from the professionals – people who are used to having a structured training regime, perhaps having coaches on-hand to keep them on track. They, like us, are having to find ways to self motivate.
Team GB Para Athlete Runner Luke Sinnott says: “Trying to train full time as an athlete during lockdown has been pretty tricky. But there are some upsides too; training at home means there are less external distractions (besides the kids ;), therefore I can achieve more.
I have decided to set big lifetime goals in my personal fitness gains. The two challenges I was chasing in 2020 are a handstand (working towards a press) and front levers. My main tip is to pursue big goals, every gain you make feels excellent and will motivate you even more.”
Keep Your Workouts Interesting
Be lateral. Working out can be boring, even for the most motivated people. Try changing your running or cycling route or take the longer route to do your errands.
Music can be the best motivator. Finding energising tunes (even if you’re not a dance music kind of person) is worth the effort to help you get going. There’s a reason why spin classes and aerobics sessions feel like you’ve been deposited in some sweaty rave: pumping dance music gets your adrenalin going and your heart pumping. It is a natural stimulant.
Bring your friends into play. Lots of teens are doing workouts together virtually – calling each other at break time to bounce up and down to their own routines or following an online workout. Try to emulate them, and find a friend or friends who’d be up for doing a workout with you, and you get the double whammy of social connection, having fun and getting fitter.
From PE with Joe to Chris Hemsworth, there is something for everyone, if you’re looking for an online coach to crack the whip. Professional dancer, Olivia Holding has this advice: ‘Find someone on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube who excites you to train with. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get fit! I love ‘Millionaire Hoy’ HITT workouts on YouTube as he is motivational and his classes are free of charge. I also love to run or go for a long walk, clear my head and get those steps in. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”
And needless to say, there is a plethora of every type of workout, whether your thing is yoga, t’ai chi or pilates. While anyone can access unlimited free workouts online, there is evidence that paying for online fitness classes, just like getting a gym membership, provides you with the commitment and accountability to keep on doing them.
You can even pull out the stops get yourself an online personal trainer – giving you that regular accountability, and still potentially costing a lot less than a ‘real-life’ personal trainer.
Introduce New Exercises
Whatever you’ve been doing, change it. The benefits to changing your workout regime range from the obvious: reducing boredom, working different muscles, to the scientific: most experts say that you need to change your routine at least every three or four weeks in order to continually improve fitness.
It may be something as simple as changing your usual 45-minute jog to a 20-minute interval session, where you run as fast as you can for say, 20 seconds, walk fast for 20 seconds and repeat.
There are so many ways to make every workout interesting – take the challenge of searching for alternatives, and start infiltrating your workouts.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
Dancer Olivia Holding says: “First of all; BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Quick fixes and binge diets are big, no no’s. Eat healthy and fresh food that you enjoy.
Another tip is to avoid buying snacks when you do your weekly shop. Being at home so much (and the inevitable boredom of lockdown), the temptation of those crisps, biscuits, ice cream and bars of chocolate will be impossible to resist. Force yourself to avoid the ‘comfort food’ aisles and focus on buying foods that will give you energy and boost your immune system.
Easier said than done, but keeping to a healthy diet is vital if you’re going to keep fit and be resilient against illness.
Adding in supplements is a good idea, too. High-dose Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc are go-to supplements for improving your immunity.
Look After Your Mental Health
As I mentioned earlier, exercising is absolutely key to your mental health. If you’re lacking in motivation, remember that 30-60 minutes of exercise a day won’t just improve your lung capacity and improve your heart function, it will help you deal with this crisis.
There are so many studies that prove the link between poor eating and reduced physical activity and negative mental health. A recent one from Oxford University looks at the effect of Covid lockdowns According to the survey from the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity (UBVO), poor eating and reduced physical activity have been important factors in negative mental health during lockdown. The survey reveals:
- A stark rise in negative mental health since the start of lockdown measures – with younger adults disproportionately suffering
- Decreased physical activity – 46% of participants are less active
- Increased binge eating and consumption of processed snacks and alcohol
Stanley Ulijaszek, Professor of Human Ecology and UBVO Director, says, ‘COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in increased levels of anxiety, poor sleep, persistent sadness, binge eating, suicidal thoughts, snacking, consumption of alcohol and reduced levels of physical activity.’
As an orthopaedic surgeon, I can only say that the healthier and fitter you are, the less likely you are to have chronic joint conditions or soft tissue injuries, and the more likely you are to feel great about yourself.
But you know that already – it’s down to you now…
The Capital Orthopaedics team provides expert and holistic care for all musculoskeletal problems and joint conditions. Our orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists know that lifestyle, health, nutrition and fitness is key to a resilient, injury-free future.
For any injuries, joint pain or musculoskeletal issues, contact us here for a fast, efficient diagnosis and the very best treatment plan to improve your lifestyle and activity level.