In these uncertain times, usual routines have been abandoned and responsibilities changed. You may find yourself with less time available to exercise, maybe because of home-schooling or caring responsibilities. Or you may have more time on your hands because of reductions in work priorities and the disappearance of regular social activities.
Exercise is central to wellbeing, because it can have a significant impact not only on your mental health but also your physical health, including your immune system. So exercise has a direct impact on your ability to fight off infection.
A healthy immune system releases appropriate quantities of white blood cells to fight off an invader such as a virus. This is always important but especially at this time.
During stressful times, exercise is also crucial for mental health. The influence of exercise on mood is well-documented, being connected with less anxiety and increased resilience to stress.
No-one knows how long we will need to remain in lockdown, but as we adapt to the reality of significant restrictions on our movement, now is a great opportunity to establish some new routines.
Here’s some inspiration to help boost your mood and immunity with exercise.
Exercise falls into three main categories, each with a different role to play.
Repetitively lifting weights or using elastic resistance bands improves muscle strength and tone. This type of exercise can also strengthen the muscles around your joints, helping avoid injury and maintain bone mineral density.
A good guide when starting with weights is to use ones heavy enough to mean you work hard but light enough so you’re able to do twelve repetitions.
Squats and lunges keep the large muscle groups strong as well as being great to improve stability and balance.
If you don’t have any weights at home, use tins of food, large milk cartons or filled water bottles, heavy books or even bags of rice or lentils.
This is any exercise raising your heart rate and burning calories. In one study, people who regularly engaged in cardio exercise were 43% less likely to suffer from respiratory tract infections.
Moderate intensity cardio exercises to do outdoors include walking rapidly or riding a bike on level ground. Examples of vigorous intensity exercises are jogging, skipping and riding a bike on hills.
Try cardio exercises indoors or in your garden or balcony such as Zumba, dancing, or repetitively climbing the stairs. Apps are available with free fitness workouts and programmes and many are now offering free trials.
Although you should never overlook stretching after any workout, exercises such as yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi help improve flexibility and balance. This not only enables you to exercise more intensively without injury but also helps improve the stability of your lower limbs.
Even if you’re already fit doesn’t mean you can start a new type of exercise from a standing start. If you’re used to regular gym sessions and you suddenly take up jogging on tarmac, you may end up with injuries like knee and hip problems, for example. Never, ever, skip the warmup and cool-down.
In recognition of the crucial role played by exercise in health, at present those who aren’t self-isolating can go outside to exercise as long as social distancing is observed. Simply being outside can add value to your exercise.
Research has found spending time exposed to UV light, particularly before noon, can improve mood and help sleep, as well as helping you cope better with anxiety-provoking experiences. It also boosts vitamin D, crucial for immunity.
Nature has so much to offer through this pandemic. Not only can exposure to the natural world boost mood and alleviate stress, but it may also support the immune system. Trees and plant emit organic compounds known as phytoncides to protect themselves from insects. These substances have been found to increase the activity of white blood cells in the immune system, known as natural killer cells, by as much as 50% for as long as a week afterwards.
Schedule a regular time to exercise. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you.
These are tough times, and if you feel you would benefit from one-to-one support, a Functional Medicine consultation can equip you with nutritional and lifestyle strategies to help you achieve your personal health goals. Contact me for more information.
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