Whatever your age, doing regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for a healthier, happier life. In addition to the immediate benefits such as stress relief and improved sleep, regular moderate physical activity can also help to reduce the risk of getting ill by stimulating the immune system, which can be particularly important during the Covid-19 breakout.
However, the pandemic has also interfered with many people’s fitness routines. In fact, a recent study shows that more than half of people in the UK (aged 18+) changed their physical activity level during lockdown, either by exercising more (around ¼) or less (around ¼)).
If you find yourself in the latter category, getting back on track may seem overwhelming with the constant change in regulations and still being at risk of catching the virus. But some forward planning and a few tips can help you ease back into your exercising routine while staying safe during the pandemic. Here are our 7 top tips:
1. Start small and built up gradually
After a long break from exercising, it’s likely that you have lost some strength and your muscles need time to build up. So it’s important to start off gently and warm up and cool down at every workout to prevent injuries. The good news is that even after a long period of detraining, your muscles still retain the cells acquired during your past workouts, a phenomenon known as “muscle memory”. In other words, it won’t feel like you are back to square one again. When you are ready, you can build up the duration, intensity and frequency of your workouts.
2. Schedule your sessions
Research published in the Advances in Experimental Social Psychology Journal reveals that simply by recording your intentions, you are more likely to follow through. You can do this by writing down on a piece of paper or in your preferred digital agenda, the time and location of your next workouts. You can also include any extra details such as equipment needed and type of exercise, for example “I will do weight training for 20 minutes at 7 a.m. in my living room”
This simple exercise about where and how you intend to do your workout can act as a cue to trigger this particular habit and will transform a foggy notion like “I want to go back to exercising” into a clear plan of action. As a result, when it’s time to exercise, you will know exactly what to do.
3. Take precautions
When you exercise, a few preparations like wearing suitable clothing and footwear and planning to stay hydrated are important for your safety. But there are some extra measures that you should consider taking in the current Covid-19 crisis:
- Avoid exercising in crowded spaces
- If you are going for a run or a walk, start from where you are
- Avoid engaging in risky forms of exercise
- Avoid touching your face when exercising outdoors
- Practice good hand hygiene when exercising in the same space as others
4. Keep to the rules
Going out in nature to exercise is scientifically proven to help relieve stress and boost mental wellbeing. However, when exercising outdoors in a pandemic, it is essential to keep up to date with the official advice including local restrictions before you leave your home. As a general guide:
- Don’t leave your home if you have coronavirus symptoms
- Practice social distancing by keeping 2 meters away from others
- Wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
5. Try something new
When it come to exercising, many people, especially women, can feel intimidated by working out in front of others. This can keep them from moving more and trying new things. If this sounds a little like you, why not take your return to training as an opportunity to try a new form of exercise in an environment that’s comfortable to you such as your home?
At-home fitness gives you the privacy you need to boost your self-confidence when starting a new routine and it’s also one of the safest options if you want to minimise the risk of getting the virus while exercising. From belly dancing to Pilates and yoga, check out these workout videos from the NHS to get you started.
6. Integrate exercise into your day
NHS advises that adults should do some type of physical activity every day. But while this may sound like a daunting idea, thinking of ways you can move more without taking too much extra time out of your day can be a good strategy in creating an exercise routine you will actually stick to. Here are just a few suggestions to help you fit more physical activity into your day-to-day life:
- Walk or ride your bike when commuting
- Walk up and down the stairs instead of taking the lift
- Take a short daily walk after your lunch
- Cook your own food to make you move more around the kitchen rather than ordering in or going out
- Do some easy exercises while sitting at a desk
7. Reward yourself
Finding an exercise routine that you enjoy and you think is rewarding in itself is an important factor in sticking to the habit. But while you’re still adjusting to the new routine, using external rewards after a workout could be a good form of motivation.
However, it’s also crucial to be wise about your fitness reward system. Rewarding yourself with a unhealthy behaviour such as getting fast-food after your workout will compromise your end goal ( e.g. losing weight or staying fit). Some reward ideas that won’t get in the way of your progress include:
- Taking a relaxing bubble bath
- Buying some exercise gear
- Preparing a healthy dinner
- Catching up with your friends
After a strict lockdown, temporary gym closures and the social distancing rules, many people had to change their daily lives including their exercise routine. But even though getting back on track might feel overwhelming, staying active is still an important part of a healthy lifestyle. So, whether you are going back to your old exercise habits or starting something completely new, make sure you do so safely by looking after your body and following the official advice.
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is correct at the time of publishing. The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional. Always seek your doctor’s advice if you have any underlying health conditions before engaging in physical activity.