It’s unlikely that we will easily forget the effect of Covid-19 on the world’s population. On an individual level many people have lost their lives to this dreadful virus. At this time many are still fighting for their lives and this global crisis is far from over, with over one third of the world on lockdown. We are, as a species very resourceful and with time we will undoubtedly get through this greatest of challenges in living memory.
The hourly news reports seem to carry endless terrible headlines, but contained within the detail is the phrase ‘with underlying health conditions’ which is sadly linked to the vast majority of the people this virus is claiming. This very generic phrase covers a wide, nearly in-exhaustive list of medical conditions, some that you are born with, some that you develop. Yet there are also some conditions that relate purely to lifestyle choices such as smoking, overeating and drinking or simply by being inactive.
Perhaps when the dust begins to settle, the focus on each of our general health will give us all pause for thought. There are many reasons to try and live a more active and healthier lifestyle. It is accepted that inactive lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity. Inactive lifestyles also increase the risks of certain cancers, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, depression and anxiety.
On a personal basis, I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression and for me, leading an active lifestyle has been the most consistent and effective treatment, far better than any pill that my doctor has ever prescribed. Of course, it takes some effort at times, the very nature of depression means you really don’t want to do much, least of all exercise. As a child and young adult I was also overweight as I did little or no exercise. I took up jogging and changed my diet and lost some 22kgs.
There are many other conditions where regular exercise can be beneficial. The following is by no means a comprehensive list. However, these are conditions that affect large numbers of the general population. A word of caution: if you’ve not exercised in quite a while, and now feel motivated to start. Please check with your doctor or other qualified medical professional to ensure it is safe for you to do so.
Regular exercise can combat, control, prevent and even reverse certain medical conditions and diseases including:
Exercise improves your ability to sleep, which is a known stress and anxiety combatant. Moderate aerobic exercise is the best way to fight anxiety.
Doctors have known for many years that certain exercises can effectively treat the acute pain and fatigue from arthritis as effectively as taking medication.
- Cold and Flu
Just doing 20 or 30 minutes of regularly repeated physical activity five days a week can help cut down the length of time that you suffer with a cold or flu.
Exercise can improve physical endurance and strengthen your respiratory muscles. This can help you feel better physically and mentally.
Numerous scientific studies have proven that exercise is actually the most effective way to treat clinical depression.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue and deep muscle pain. Simple physical exertion can really reduce the amount of pain you feel.
- Heart Disease
Regular aerobic exercise decreases your risk of heart failure, increases your energy levels and improves your blood circulation.
- High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a killer. Regular exercise can help lower your systolic blood pressure, and is often a more effective treatment than medications.
- High Cholesterol
Obesity is a complex health condition. People who exercise regularly are much less likely to be obese with its many devastating health complications.
Regular exercise is excellent for increasing bone density and strength.
Osteoporosis can be fought with weight training and resistance exercises.
- Type II Diabetes
Regular exercise and proper nutrition can actually remove this debilitating disease from your life.
In the UK, the Chief Medical Officers issues a report on the amount and type of physical activity people should be doing to improve their own health to prevent or better manage the conditions mentioned above. There are recommended guidelines for various groups. Click on the links to download a useful infographic.
- Birth to 5 years
- 5 to 18 years
- 19 years and over
- Disabled adults
- Pregnant women
- Women after childbirth to 12 months
As a personal trainer, the majority of the people I work with across Brighton and Hove and the surrounding areas are adults and older adults. Typically my clients are aged in their late 40s to their 80s. For this group, the Chief Medical Officers recommend:
- Physical activity of moderate intensity of at least 150 minutes per week (defined as increased breathing, able to talk) or of vigorous intensity of at least 75 minutes per week (defined as breathing fast difficulty talking).
- For moderate intensity activities include swimming, brisk walk and cycling. For vigorous intensity activities include running, climbing stairs and sports.
- The guidelines also recommend building strength on at least two days a week to keep muscles, bones and joints strong. Activities include going to the gym, yoga and carrying heavy bags.
- Further guidance for older adults to improve balance on at least two days a week to reduce the chance of frailty and falls, and for everyone we should try and minimise sedentary time by breaking up periods of inactivity.
While we are all on lockdown we are at least for now, able to go out once a day to exercise, a brisk walk, jogging or a bike-ride. At home, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises that you can do. Here’s a list of 25 to start with:
Full body exercises
- Mountain climbers
- Prone walkout
- Wall sits
- Reverse lunges
- Side lunges
- Sit down stand ups
- Calf raises
Chest and back exercises
- Standard push-ups
- Push ups on knees
- Push ups against wall
- Reverse flies
Shoulders and arm exercises
- Triceps dips
- Shoulder stabilisation series (I-Y-T-W-O)
- Arm circles
- Flutter kicks
- Side plank
- Russian twists
- Air bicycle
If you’re not familiar with these exercises simply Google them and you’ll find videos on how to perform them safely.
For now, we all have to just try and get through this crisis. I hope that you and the people you love get safely through it. And once we’re through the other side, perhaps consider how you and the other people you care for can live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
A healthier and more active lifestyle could simply be by going for a brisk 30 minute walk on 5 days a week. No fancy equipment, expensive gym membership required or personal trainer for that matter.
Take care and stay safe!