Lockdown Exercise; New Ways of Staying Fit - Andi Smart

 

What does the government say about exercising under lockdown?

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing distributed a paper that explains the do's and don'ts of exercising outdoors during lockdown (at the time of writing these rules are still in place across the UK).

Daily exercise, including walking, running, cycling, tending to an allotment or doing yoga is allowed.

You are allowed to drive somewhere to take your exercise. The guidance says, ‘it is lawful to drive for exercise.’ However, ‘Driving for a prolonged period with only brief exercise’ is also deemed ‘not likely to be reasonable’. 

You are allowed to sit and take a break from exercise, say, on a bench or sitting down in a park. 

If you would like to read more on this see this useful article from the Guardian on lockdown exercise rules: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/16/driving-for-exercise-allowed-under-lockdown-rules-police-advised-coronavirus

Why is exercise so important in general?

Exercising has many physical health benefits. It can, for example, reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes; as well as help to strengthen bones and muscles and might even significantly reduce your risk of lung and colon cancer. Exercise is also good for our mental health as it reduces stress and anxiety and increases serotonin in the brain which helps support us in feeling happier (see - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise). Byford, Torgerson and Raftery (2000) recognise that walking, running and cycling are excellent ways to increase serotonin and thus increase positive mood. 

How can exercise support people during the epidemic?

The evidence is clear: those with chronic physical and mental health conditions are at a more significant risk of developing coronavirus (NHS, 2020); therefore, there is a real need for everyone (not just the most vulnerable) to figure out ways in which fitness can be re-introduced into this new way of living. This is because evidence suggests that exercise strengthens our immunity and helps us stay fit and well by fighting off infections (Simpson et al, 2020). This means that being in isolation without access to gyms and sports clubs should not mean people stop exercising.

How can I plan my exercise?

I find fitness trackers really useful in providing me with that much needed reminded to get up and go out! There are endless amounts of apps available that can also help to provide this push: I enjoy the couch to 5k (See - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week) but there are intermediate and advanced programmes for those of us who feel we can push ourselves that little bit further (See - https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/intermediate-and-advanced-workouts/REF). It’s important to always make sure you are ready and that the routines are within your capabilities as, if not, this could cause an injury and really knock your confidence. Many apps and online workout platforms do allow you to pick a level of difficulty so it is absolutely fine if you are a total beginner, as we have all started somewhere. 

There really is something for everyone depending on your experience, what you enjoy doing and your goals. Examples include: 8fit, Seven, Tone It Up, Keelo, NeoU, Shreddy, SWEAT: Kayla Itsines Fitness, Six Pack in 30 Days, Butt Workout by 7M, Yoga Wake Up and Daily Yoga. However, this mass of options can feel daunting.

 The NHS has a really good site with 24 videos from 10-45 minutes a piece (see -https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/). If you find a type of exercise that you really like maybe then you can explore that outside of the NHS in more detail using the countless apps and subscription sites. You could even train face-to-face with an instructor over FaceTime or Skype. Whilst the rules only allowed us one hour of outdoor exercise a day, we saw reports that many people were making sure to take advantage of this time to walk, run or cycle outdoors. Try to keep this momentum going now that we’re allowed a little more freedom and plan a workout that best suits your needs outside every day, for example, a scenic walk, run or cycle. Whilst outdoors, try to enjoy nature too as this has been proven to lower stress and anxiety (Morita et al, 2000). The typical goal on smart-watches and step counting apps is to achieve 10,000 steps-a-day but remember this can be done in your home too and some smart watches will calculate a personalised goal for you, based on your current activity levels, so that you’re not trying to do too much too fast. You could get competitive and try to achieve this every single day or set a goal that is more suited to your abilities. Thompson et al (2011) suggests that challenging yourself and achieving physical goals will give you something to work towards and stimulate your mind as well as your muscles.

 

What exercises/fitness workouts can I do at home?

Some of us will be lucky to have gym equipment at home: I dusted down an old exercise bike which I had been using as a clothes horse for about two years! But some of us will not have anything. There are still lots of options available to keep fit without gym equipment or apps. There are, for example, lots of home workouts online to view: I watch HASfit You Tube videos and find them great with lots of different workouts and lots of different levels but I always feel great after this (if you would like to see examples of HASfit home workouts see their You Tube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXIJ2-RSIGn53HA-x9RDevA). 

There are loads of hints and tips on ways to workout at home on the NHS website too: for example, I found squatting when the kettle is boiling very amusing initially but I am really starting to see my ability increase and CACHE Alumni’s editor, Dawn, stands on one leg whilst brushing her teeth each day to support better balance! - you will be amazed how your fitness level will start to go up if you maintain a workout routine. I also really enjoy yoga at home which is great for the body and mind plus you hardly need any space to be able to practice. I followed several different YouTube Videos when I was a beginner but I would recommend research the basic poses first at: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/poses-by-level/beginners-poses

There are also a range of apps that will guide you through a virtual yoga class (see - https://www.verywellfit.com/best-online-yoga-classes-3567242). If you are feeling anxious and stressed due to lockdown and other reasons it might help to try yoga as the need to focus on your breathing can help to transport your mind elsewhere and give you an option to be mindful of the situation and not be thinking about what is happening around you.

If exercise for the sake of it isn’t your thing, there are lots of other ways to achieve activity. There are many fitness benefits to cleaning: for example, Tailor (2019) suggests that you can “burn 190 calories on a tough job like scrubbing away dirt and grime”. I agree: cleaning is a workout - just think about all that effort needed to strip sheets, do laundry and make beds: a great upper body workout. If you are really on the ball then why not add some squats or crunches while you are doing these?  Squats strengthen your core and balance and are great for toning your gluteus maximus with crunches an important exercise for your abs (NHS, 2020). 

Foster et al (2015) suggest that it is also possible to do HIIT training at home during lockdown (high-intensity interval training). HIIT is a training session made up of a series of fast bursts of exercise like running on the spot or cycling on an exercise bike. The key is to push hard: this anaerobic exercise has numerous benefits for the body in that it develops the heart and lungs over time to improve fitness and endurance and also reduces body fat (see - https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/10/18148463/high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-orangetheory). Finally, skipping with a rope is a truly fantastic cardio exercise which challenges a lot of muscle groups as well as working your hand/eye coordination and timing into the equation (Munk, 2019). You do need a bit more space for this but if you can it is a brilliant way to get the heart rate up and fantastic, particularly, for runners who can’t get outside for longer periods of time. I must admit, from my experiences of skipping it is much harder than I remember at school and so only the truly hardcore fitness fanatics could probably manage to skip for any serious length of time. You could still try to mix in repetitions of, for example, a minute of skipping then working through the other exercises above then repeat times 5. Or just see how many skips you can do before you snag yourself with the rope and then try again and try to beat that figure each time. The BBC website has a great skipping rope challenge: see https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1pvJl3dLyswVpWwq6bkGGqP/the-skipping-challenge-makeyourmove.

The evidence is clear: exercise is an important factor in maintaining optimal health and that even under lockdown, (however that may change), we should always keep exercise in our routines. There are challenges to this and so creative ways of keeping fit are needed such as skipping, HITT and online workouts and apps. Nonetheless, in maintaining fitness to the best of our ability we are supporting our immunity in fighting off infections and, consequently, looking after our physical and mental health and wellbeing. 

 

An experienced Mental Health Practitioner , Andi’s specialisms are Autism and Dementia Care, coupled with a strong interest in disability, advocacy, sociology and equality. Andi currently works within NHS Mental Health services as an LGBT specialist and within Education as a subject specialist, helping to develop qualifications and assess quality. Andi is currently registered as a trainee counselor, whilst finishing his level 5 Counselling training to become a person-centered counselor. A keen advocate for lifelong learning, Andi is due to complete his Masters of Science in Health and Wellbeing in October 2019.

 

References

Byford, S., Torgerson, D, J., and Raftery, J. (2000) Economic Note: Cost of illness studies. British Medical Journal. Volume 320, pages 1335 - 1359.

Foster, C., Farland,  C, V., and Guidotti. (2015). The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. Journal of Sports Science. Volume 14(4), pages 747 ‐ 755.

Morita, E., Fukuda, S., and Nagano, J. (2019). Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction. ENGLAND Harvard Press

Munk, P. (2019). What can I use under lockdown in my home to keep fit. Cited on: https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/outdoor-activity/coronavirus-best-fitness-equipment-exercise-home-work-out-a9411301.html - accessed 07 05 20. 

Richard, J., Simpson, J., Campbell, M., Gleeson, D. (2020). Can Exercise Affect Immune Function to Increase Susceptibility to Infection? Journal of Immunol Support. Volume 19, pages 119 - 124.

Thompson, P., and Stein, K. (2011). Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science and Technology. Volume 45, pages 1761 - 1772.