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Being active: the benefits for all

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With people spending more time at home, and with some leisure and sport facilities still facing restrictions, staying active and healthy has never been more of a challenge.

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.

Benefits for your immune system 

Long before this pandemic, we all knew that physical activity boosted our health and ability to resist and overcome illness. That conclusion hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s more relevant now than ever.

  • The Centre for Perioperative Care recently published guidance that people should prepare to fight coronavirus like they would prepare for surgery by staying fit and healthy.
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.

Benefits for your mental health and wellbeing 

Physical activity also improves your mental health and wellbeing. 

As many of us face disruption to our daily lives during the pandemic, it can be a challenging time for our mental health and wellbeing. Physical activity is more important than ever for helping us cope with these trying times. 


You don’t need to be ‘sporty’

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.


Exercise to suit your circumstances and ability 

Even though being active has tons of benefits... you won't want to be suddenly running a marathon if you did little exercise before the pandemic!  Remember to keep within your limits and make sure you're exercising to suit your own personal circumstances. 

Information for pregnant women

If you're pregnant, the Chief Medical Officer's (CMO's) advice is to start gradually if you weren't active prior to pregnancy, and if you were then to keep going but listen to your body and adapt.

Staying active during pregnancy helps with mood, sleep and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain.

The NHS has also produced guidance about getting active during pregnancy.

Information for people with a disability or long-term health condition

When you’re managing a health condition, being active is about finding what works for you, particularly when the way you feel can change from day to day.

There is more guidance if you are thinking of taking part in physical activity if you have a disability or long-term health condition.


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