Gym equipment including dumbbells and skipping rope

We all know that keeping physically active is good for us. Not only is it important for our physical health, but for our mental health too. It helps to lower anxiety, stress and releases feel good hormones that help lift our mood.

Think back to the last time you did some physical activity or exercise; how did you feel afterwards? I’m betting you felt much better for doing some activity, even if you resisted doing it in the first place. Most people will feel better. As humans, we’re not designed to be sedentary creatures.

Physical activity is a pre-requisite of our wellbeing. It is essential for our minds and bodies that we keep moving. It creates a shift in our levels of energy and by moving our bodies, we can go from feeling sluggish to feeling energised.

Yet these are challenging times we find ourselves in. No longer can we go to an exercise class, gym or take part in our favourite sports. Restrictions have been put in place, which limit the amount of time we can spend outside our homes. But we can keep physically active to stay happy and well.

How to keep physically active

If we’re prepared to get a bit creative and be open to doing things a bit differently, we can keep moving from the comfort of our homes and at the same time, have some fun. For example, these five exercises to do when the kettle boils are perfect for an at-home workout.

If we find ourselves able to do this, it can help lift our mood, and begin to feel more positive about ourselves and the situation we find ourselves in.

Step one is to take some time to consider what type of activities you have an interest in, or are potentially drawn to? What do you usually enjoy doing? Maybe you need to think further back into your past for some ideas. Perhaps consider activities that you have not tried before, but ignite some curiosity in you.

If nothing comes to mind, what did you enjoy doing as you were growing up? Some of us have complicated relationships with physical exercise, so asking this question may be challenging.

I used to love to dance. The great thing about dancing is it doesn't feel like exercise. You need no equipment and you can do it anywhere. I must admit I don’t dance as much as I used to, yet when I do, I love it. So, here is my suggestion. Choose an uplifting track that you know will have you moving and go for it. Give yourself permission to release your inner dancer that has just been waiting to be unleashed! If you live with others perhaps you could even all have a dance-off?

If dancing is not your thing, and you cannot be converted, no worries; there are loads of other possible ways we can get moving.

Follow an online class

Since the lockdown oodles of celebrity fitness instructors have crawled out of the woodwork. Most of you will have heard of Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) who is doing his live workouts on YouTube at 9.00am every morning. Even Mr Motivator and The Green Goddess have donned their leotards for a comeback during the Lockdown.

We are spoilt for choice with the number of free exercise videos online that we can access. YouTube has exercise videos to suit virtually all interests; from Yoga, Pilates and Zumba, to Cardio, Resistance Training and Boxing. There’s something out there for everyone.

If you enjoy or would like to try Yoga I strongly recommend checking out Kassandra's Yoga channel on YouTube. My favourite ten-minute flow sequence is from yogiinmelbourne which offers a great all over body workout.

Some local instructors are now offering their classes online via Zoom. Yoga Space are offering online classes for £25 a month and have 16 classes a week to choose from. That works out less than £1 a day.

This is all very well and good I hear you cry, but what about if you are seriously lacking in motivation.

Aim for ten minutes a day

One way is to break any activity you choose to do into small manageable chunks of time. Saying to yourself that you will do something for ten minutes is probably do-able for most people. It shouldn’t feel too overwhelming.

Just tell yourself, I’ll do this for ten minutes. Anything more is a bonus. It is better to do ten minutes a day, than nothing at all.

The hardest part of doing any physical activity is getting started. The mind will do its best to come up with as many reasons as possible why you shouldn’t bother.  It will put up fierce resistance, making up numerous excuses for why now is not good time to do it…

“I’m too tired”

“I haven’t got the time”

“I’ll do it tomorrow…when I feel like it”

The truth is, we will rarely feel like it. This is why it’s helpful to make physical activity a part of your daily routine. If it’s part of your daily routine eventually it will become a habit and once something becomes a habit it becomes so much easier to follow through because there is no decision involved, it’s just something you do, like brushing your teeth.

Research shows that the optimal time of the day for physical activity is the morning. Doing something nurturing and good for us can really set you up for the day. And if you do it first thing you know it’s done, it won’t be lingering at the back of your mind niggling away at you.

Make it a family affair

To make yourself more likely to show up regularly why not recruit family members to join you? If you live alone maybe you could buddy up with a friend and do it together remotely, using Zoom or Skype? Buddying up means you can support and motivate each other, and of course it makes it more fun.

Making it enjoyable and fun will help immensely. If you are hating every single second, the chances that you will keep it up are slim.

If you’ve got kids, consider involving them. If you are one of lucky ones with a garden perhaps you could create a mini circuits or assault courses. Maybe dig out an old skipping rope, challenge each other to do the most repetitions. Ten minutes of full throttle skipping is enough for most people!

You could even create your own home workout routine. It could include squats, push-ups against a wall or kitchen counter and lifting tins of beans. If you usually use dumbbells at the gym, create your own dumbbells by popping tins of beans in a carrier bag.

Get some fresh air

Getting fresh air and physical activity are the perfect combo. Walking is one of the best all-round physical activities there is, and as we’ve been blessed with great weather, get out there and enjoy it.

Maybe now might also be the perfect time to take up jogging? It could be a golden opportunity to try the Couch to 5K or, with a lot less traffic on the road, now could be an ideal time to get your bike out. It’s probably the safest time to be out on the roads on a bike.

There are so many therapeutic benefits to gardening (see this article from Good Housekeeping). If you’ve ever had to do a lot of digging, you will know how physically demanding it can be!

Final tips

There are so many possibilities to keep physically active during lockdown, as long as we keep safe and adhere to the government guidelines and keep two metres apart from others. The key is to keep it fresh and fun.

Don’t focus on what you can’t do, but focus on what you can.

And of course, some days it will be a struggle to motivate yourself. It’s important to not be too harsh on yourself during these times. If you find yourself in a slump, go easy on yourself. Remember tomorrow is another day.

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