Tips for staying active during the autumn lock-down
You only have one body and one mind. Before you do anything else, it is vital to be able to look after both. This article considers ways of staying active to support your physical and mental health.
With more time being spent at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a risk of becoming less physically active as you juggle the needs of daily living with work commitments as well as looking out for others. Tapping away on a laptop or scrolling your smartphone, it is easy to tip into a sedentary existence. One video conference merges into another and the email pings never seem to stop. The breaks that happened naturally in your workplace with chats by the water cooler or over a coffee have disappeared. Sitting at your workstation can provide an anchor and focus but also reduces your mobility which means your body isn't getting the exercise it needs.
If this sounds like you, now is the time to act. You only have one body and one mind. Before you can do anything else, it is vital to be able to look after both. This means staying active, sitting less and moving more for your physical wellbeing and mental health. Being active contributes to physical health by boosting the immune system but the benefits of moving more are not limited to the body.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Furthermore, regular physical activity can increase self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. It also plays a role in preventing the development of mental health problems and in improving the quality of life of people experiencing mental health problems.
Click the link below to download the Mental Health Foundation free of charge guide on How to look after your mental health using exercise.
While the restrictions of the autumn lock-down mean that there is less choice for how you exercise your body and nurture your mind, there are still plenty of options to consider. Probably one of the best is to simply get outdoors, preferably in green space such as parks, public gardens or into the countryside. You might take a walk, go for a cycle ride or perhaps have a run. Whatever you do, take the time to savour the experience by focusing on what you see, hear, smell and feel. Simply noticing what is around you can help calm a racing mind and allow you to relax as you enjoy the sensation of free movement.
According to Mind, the mental health charity spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Being outside in natural light can also be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of the year. The evidence is compelling: spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing.
Even if you can't get outside due to Covid-19 restrictions, you can still find ways to bring nature to you. For example, spend time with the windows open to let in the fresh air, arrange space to sit and look at the view and get some natural sunlight. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, why not make a brew and spend some time there having a stretch and a stroll. If you own a dog, take some time to play ball. It will lift your mood and your pooch will love you all the more for it.
I recently read a wonderful article by James Black who is a professional economist with a passion for the outdoors. James has set up Wilderness Redefined to encourage people to enjoy the natural world with two core values in mind. First, accessibility – providing comfort tips and outdoor advice – and, second, environmental sustainability, so that future generations can enjoy the same opportunities that we do. James explains, "The benefits of going outside are numerous. For some, it can help to see life from a different perspective. For others, it can help deal with stress and low mood. And for everyone, it can help rekindle our appreciation of nature."
James' mission resonates with me. Walking outdoors near my home in Kent helps to clear my mind of any clutter and boosts my sense of wellbeing. I am grateful for the chance to savour the sounds, aromas and colours of the woodlands and public green spaces. It reminds me to appreciate the natural world and all the life contained within it. Whether you enjoy the adventure of hiking and camping or simply like to stroll in your local park, you'll find James' well-researched article on the 12 Benefits of Being Outdoors interesting and motivational.
Important note: Remember to check the Covid-19 restrictions on movement in your area and what they mean for you.