Let’s start with the elephant in the room – how positive are you feeling right now? Are you managing to keep up an active lifestyle? Two questions that apply to both exercisers and fitness professionals.
If you have not been furloughed, you’re most likely working from home. Few are still lucky enough to be walking to the office from a train commute, enjoying a swift stroll to the local café in your lunch hour or popping up the stairs to the 4th floor to talk to your marketing team.
It’s more likely that your daily exercise is taking out the recycling, or those regular walks to the kettle. The novelty of having more perceived free time during the COVID restrictions has worn off, and the comfort of a night on the sofa and a boxset may have more appeal. With gyms, sports clubs and team sports off limits, we are relying more on our own (sometimes waning) self motivation to keep fit.
Throughout the endless days of lockdown in this global pandemic, with strict restrictions on who you can see and where you can go, it’s become a challenge to stay constantly upbeat. Couple this lack of activity that comes with life in lockdown with uncertainty, and our mental wellbeing is taking a real beating.
Our hours of inactivity in lockdown are at an all-time low. A recent study carried out by University College London, which tracked the activity of 70,000 people, found that almost half of those surveyed said they were doing less exercise than during the first lockdown in 2020. What are the effects of this lack of activity, and how are they affecting our mental state?
The happy hormone 😊
The benefits of exercise to your general wellbeing are well known, and can improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. After just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise the body produces chemicals including called endorphins, which react with receptors in the brain to relieve pain and boost mood, creating a euphoric feeling.
Going for a run, a game of tennis, or a quick spin class are all guaranteed to put in a much better mood at the end of the session than when you started.
The hard part is getting moving in the first place. So with gyms closed in the UK until mid-April, what can we do right now to get more active and beat these blues?
Step 1: Set a fitness goal 🚴♀️
One sure fire way to stay consistently active is to set a health goal. And if you can rope in in a fitness buddy, you are more likely to stick to it!
Here are some ideas to help you keep moving:
● Set a daily target.
Why don’t you start with a daily step target? If the recommended 10,000 steps each day seems unattainable, make it a figure more realistic to you, while still pushing yourself.
● Have a monthly target.
To make it more challenging, make that target your age. This means you’d need to run or walk your age every month. You can set kilometres or miles as your target, whatever suits you.
● Create a virtual commute.
Instead of waking up and heading straight to your home desk, make yourself a virtual commute. This could be a 20 minute walk, a run or cycle in the neighbourhood, or even setting aside 20 minutes for your favourite podcast, all before you start work.
● Make time for family and put it in the calendar.
Simply setting aside time to walk with your family a few times a week at the end of the day is a great de-stresser for everyone. Adding it to your schedule will create a little milestone to look forward to in your head.
● Try something new.
The many months of lockdown have given us a lot of time to start a new hobby and look at life with a different perspective. If you have never done a marathon before, why not start the couch to 5K programme, which is a great way to help you reach that milestone.
● Invite friends to join your challenge.
Imagine you decided to set a virtual long-distance challenge, such as running from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Well, what better way to complete it than with a group of friends. You can easily record your miles either walking, running or cycling. Then at the end of the week you can have a Zoom call to “cross the final line” and announce the winners.
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If you want to learn more about how fitness programmes can help exercisers build stronger habits, listen to our mPowered episode with Ric Moylan, one of the UK’s leading athlete coaches.
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Step 2: Practice mindfulness 🧘♀️
Speaking of motivation, it’s important to acknowledge the mind as well as the body. Our attitude towards activities often gets the better of us in the heat of the moment.
Mindfulness is the ability to bring your attention back to the present moment. It’s an awareness exercise.
As you are seeing with more clarity where you are (your living room), what’s around you (house plants, children’s toys, books, your empty morning cup of coffee), and how you’re feeling (perhaps tired due to lack of sleep, or sore from sitting in an uncomfortable position in front of the laptop all day), you can slowly cross the bridge from awareness to intention.
Intention translated in exercise means a more consistent active lifestyle. When we look at the benefits that mindfulness brings to the mind, it reduces stress, enhances focus and innovation, and boosts your natural curiosity.
While 1 in 3 may be turning to meditation to battle stress, the majority of people (76.2%) meditate to maintain general wellness. Plus, meditation has been found to increase productivity by 120% and increase your attention span after 4 days of practicing mindfulness, according to Science Direct.
Mindfulness meditation starts with the body and ends with the body, even if the session happens in your mind. Isn’t that fascinating!
The bottom line…
Whatever you choose to do, you will feel much better after dedicating some time for exercise (mental or physical) on a regular basis. Remember that Spring’s finally here, the days are getting longer and the temperature is slowly warming up. So what’s stopping you from putting on your trainers right now!