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Being Active – The Benefits

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Just because so many of us are now staying in doesn’t mean we can’t be working out.

It doesn’t matter who you are, how much, or how little exercise you normally do, these are testing times for everyone in Wales.

Just at the very moment everyone needs their own health and well-being to protect them during the coronavirus threat, we are having to deal with severe restrictions in our daily lives.

Good News Amid the Gloom

But there is good news amid the gloom. Not only is it possible for everyone to do some form of exercise and make it a daily routine, but there are lots out individuals and groups out there to help.

So, even if you rarely got up from your sofa before the pandemic began, now is the time to be kind to yourself. Get up and get moving – perhaps gently at first – and both your body and mind will benefit.

We’re here to motivate you

Sport Wales are committed to helping, too. That’s why we have launched our Be Active Wales campaign. The aim is to support everyone in trying to stay healthy and active through these most difficult days.

It doesn’t have to be sport and you don’t need to be sporty in order to be active.

But why should you?

Long before this current crisis, we all knew that physical activity boosted our health and ability to resist and overcome illness.

Last year – well before he started appearing on our TV screens – the UK’s chief medical officer issued guidance on physical activity in a report which stated: “"If physical activity were a drug, we would refer to it as a miracle cure, due to the great many illnesses it can prevent and help treat.”

That conclusion hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s more relevant now than ever.

The Science

The British Journal of Sports Medicine has re-issued guidance from recent research, which states: “Regular physical activity reduces the risk of a person contracting communicable diseases (such as viral and bacterial infections) by enhancing the person’s immune system’s ability to regulate itself.

“Therefore, we should maintain our exercise regimes during this period, because it improves our immune system’s competency.”

And recent research from the USA has suggested that far from needing to do 10,000 steps a day, a modest increase in the number taken can dramatically improve life expectancy.

Shane Williams shares this experience

Wales rugby legend Shane Williams was rarely boxed in on the field, but as a fitness fanatic and triathlete he’s been having to adjust like the rest of us.

With fewer opportunities to get out and exercise, he’s looked for more home-based solutions we could all learn from.

“I’m keeping busy by doing all the things that I’ve put off since I moved into this house,” says Shane. 

“You can do a bit of manual work, do some gardening, even clean out the shed or the kitchen. These things might not sound like much fun, but they’re actually okay once you start and they can be very satisfying once you’ve finished a task.

“You might even be like me and find things that you thought you’d lost forever!

“So, do the things you’ve been putting off for the last few years. It can be fulfilling. You’ll feel glad afterwards that you made yourself do it.”

You don’t need to be ‘sporty’

If the odd jobs don’t appeal, or you’re not a gardener, then it’s possible to exercise both inside the home and when you use your outdoor allowance of one form of exercise a day.

Stretching routines, lifting weights (household objects like water bottles will do) and more vigorous movements to get your heart pumping can all help replace the missing walks to the office, the train station or the café.

The NHS website has an exercise section that includes sitting workouts, while Joe Wicks – The Body Coach who has been keeping millions of youngsters motivated and in-shape recently with his daily online routines – has over 250 free workouts on his YouTube channel.

There are also yoga and Pilates classes you can follow online, such as Rachel Lawrence, The Girl With The Pilates Mat, as well as the NHS website’s Couch to 5K running plan for beginners.

Small steps...

If you’re a little more used to more strenuous and regular exercise, then there are also plenty of exercises routines you can follow – many signposted by the governing bodies of individual sports – to try and ensure you maintain your levels of fitness.

All these activities – as well as using your outdoor time for walks, runs or bike rides – will also help improve your mental health and reduce stress levels and anxiety.

Shane Williams was a hero to millions of people in Wales on the rugby field, but says it’s what he has found inspiring from the general public that matters now.

“We are a nation that always sticks together. I discovered that through playing rugby, but I also found it was the same off the field as well.

“When things become really challenging, then find somewhere quiet and do something active. It’s about keeping going – and encouraging each other.

“Let’s make sure we all do the right thing and listen to all the advice we are being told.  The quicker we follow all the guidelines then the quicker we can get through this.”