This week we are focusing on the need to BE ACTIVE to support our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times, especially like those we are currently experiencing (COVID19), it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.
If you can, try to get some form of physical activity each day, at home via a workout or in your private garden or get out into public space in line with the government guidelines.
‘Be active’ – the benefits
Being active is great for your physical health and fitness and evidence shows that it can also improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. What you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing. Physical activity has an important role to play in promoting positive mental health and emotional
Evidence shows that physical activity can reduce the risk of depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Physical activity can also help to improve mental and emotional well-being by improving self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality and by reducing levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue.
The medically proven health benefits of regular physical activity include lower risk of:
- type 2 diabetes;
- colon and breast cancers;
- breast cancer;
- osteoarthritis and hip fractures;
- coronary heart disease and stroke;
For good physical and mental health, we should aim to be physically active every day. Any amount of physical activity is better than doing none at all. And if you are already physically active, increasing the amount you do can also benefit your health.
The easiest way of becoming more active is to make physical activity part of your everyday life and the more you do, the better.
The Chief Medical Officer Guidance stipulates adults should aim to be active every day and do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week. You can split this into 30 minutes of activity most days each week. If you prefer, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week.
Adults should limit the time they spend sitting or lying down when not sleeping.
For more information on the CMO guidelines (for all age groups) please visit: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/physical-activity.
"Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it," says Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health. "Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly."
Ways to get physically active
The coronavirus outbreak means we are spending more time at home, but there are still lots of ways to stay active and increase movement in your daily routine. Do not feel you have to go to the gym or engage in a very strenuous workout to get active, find an activity you enjoy that suits your level of mobility and fitness and make this part of your routine. This could be in the form of:
- walking or jogging;
- playing a ball game in the garden;
- yoga or Pilates;
Whatever you chose to do, remember keeping active is not only doing activities that gets you out of breath, but also movement that help to build your strength, balance and flexibility. It is possible to gain all of these physical health benefits, as well as the positive impacts on your mood and achieve personal satisfaction, in the home setting or in outdoor public areas.
The UK Government has recognised how important it is to have daily exercise, including it as one of the reasons that we can leave our homes, to ensure our physical and mental and emotional wellbeing. Whilst following local Northern Ireland coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and recommendations around face covering and social distancing, there are lots of ways you can be active in your local area.
There are lots of online resources are available that show you how to do just that, wherever you’re starting out from.
- For more information on physical activity overall, please visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/physical-activity
- Visit WalkNI for information on walking trails across Northern Ireland
- Visit CycleNI for information on cycle routes across Northern Ireland
- Visit your local council website to find out more on activities and facilities available in your local area
- For more information on how you can increase your daily activity, visit Choose To Live Better
- For more examples on ways to Be Active, visit the COVIDWellbeingNI Hub
For specific detail regarding home workouts and activities for those with mobility issues please visit the following NHS web pages:
- Home-based strength and cardio workouts for adults
- Seated strength and flexibility exercises for adults with mobility issues
- Five-week strength and flex programme
Remember to find something that fits with your ability now and you can always advance to something more active in time.
If you haven't exercised for a while, gradually introduce physical activity into your daily routine and before you begin increasing your levels of physical activity you should check with your doctor if you haven’t done any activity for a long time or you are living with a health condition or disability. They’ll be able to advise you on the best way to approach increasing your level of physical activity.
Remember not to overdo it- small changes are helpful, building up your activity levels if you are trying new things or if you haven’t done an exercise programme for some time. It’s better to start slowly and gradually your levels of physical activity than to push yourself too hard and get discouraged from the outset.
If you decide that you’ll keep active by having a spring clean, some long overdue DIY or working in the garden, remember not to take any unnecessary risks that may lead to any injury.