Sitting for too long is known to increase our risk of disease. It causes inflammation in the body and triggers our body to hold onto fat. Whilst you may be getting a daily dose of exercise, it’s important to remember that not going about your daily life as normal dramatically reduces how much you move. Not walking from the bus stop to work, not dropping the kids at school, not popping round to see a friend; our step counts have taken a serious bashing. This isn’t good for our body but it’s easy to solve with small amounts of activity often, every half an hour or so will do the trick. You’ll sleep better too if you move more, many people are struggling with restless nights at the moment and sleep is vital for a healthy immune system.
What to do: Set a ‘move reminder’ on your watch. Use the upstairs bathroom. Mix in active tasks such as cleaning or gardening with more sedentary ones. Squat while the kettle boils. Do calf raises while you brush your teeth. Get up and make a drink whenever an advert comes on the TV. Make your phone calls standing up or walking around.
Exercise Every Day
Whilst a week of no exercise isn’t going to harm us, many weeks of inactivity will. The World Health Organisation guidelines are that adults should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (exercise that makes you feel a bit out of breath) per week alongside muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. This is the amount required for good health and is in addition to the advice to avoid sitting for too long. More is better but something is better than nothing. Exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body which helps to prevent disease and done regularly, it can boost our immune systems too. Even if we’re stuck at home, we can still meet these guidelines. It’s a great time for people who haven’t exercised before to start doing so. Remember 150 minutes is the target not the starting point and even five minutes is beneficial. Follow your government guidelines regarding outdoor activity and always practise social distancing.
What to do: If you are able to go out then brisk walking, running or cycling are ideal. Join online classes (we invite you to the 261 Fearless Virtual Meetruns on Thursdays). Crank up the music and dance. Involve your family. Use store cupboard food cans as weights. Do bodyweight exercises such as press ups and planks. Run up and down the stairs.
Nurture Your Mind
It can be hard to stay calm and happy at the moment. Our mental health is under pressure with new routines, juggling caring for family and concerns for those who are vulnerable and at work. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the state of the world and to feel afraid. This is particularly so for those who already have problems with their mental health. Keeping moving and active will help to lift our mood but we need to do more. We need to take steps to specifically look after our mental health and to reach out to others for the sake of theirs. Remember that good things are happening too. People are getting better. Communities are connecting. Creativity and kindness abound. Remember this will pass.
What to do: Spend time each day thinking and smiling about what you are grateful for. Limit your news and social media contact to once or twice a day for an update from a trusted source. Connect with others every day, on the phone, with a wave or a letter. Share your feelings with someone else. Listen to music or use apps to calm your thoughts. Learn relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Distract yourself with activities you enjoy, crafts, reading or a funny film; laughter is great medicine.
Nourish Your Body
It’s not easy when food supplies are limited but your body requires good nutrition to fuel it and give it the building blocks it needs for a healthy immune system. Fresh produce is ideal but depending on where you live it may be difficult to get hold of. Look for local businesses you can support, they may offer home deliveries. Where possible make things from scratch rather than use processed versions. Just do the best you can with what you have.
What to do: Stick to regular meal time routines. Avoid comfort eating junk foods. Use tinned and frozen products. Make soups and smoothies. Get creative with new recipes; lots of chefs are online with videos and ideas. Grow simple herbs on your window sill to liven up dishes. Add nuts and seeds to meals to add nutrients. Drink plenty of water. Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.
These are simple things that we can all do. If you have ideas and tips to add to these suggestions, then leave them in the comments below. We’d love to hear how you are managing. When we finally come through to the other side of this we will see that these tips aren’t just for home isolation periods. They are for every day. We will have learnt new habits and skills to look after ourselves. We will have a better appreciation of our bodies, what they need and how amazing they are. We will celebrate those who really kept the world turning when we were truly up against it and I hope we will be happier and healthier for it.
- Dr Juliet McGrattan, 261 Fearless expert on women's health