Combatting Covid-Inactivity: Prioritising Exercise for Health

Inactivity is at an all time high. If being at home more has caused this, how can we manage it whilst spending most of our time in this space? In this blog we explain both the impact of inactivity and ways to tackle it so you can live a healthy, active life.

For all of us our lives’ have been greatly affected in the past year by Covid-19 and the huge impact this has had on our lifestyle, with stay at home’ restrictions. Many have had to transition to working from home, which has resulted in a substantial decrease in activity with evidence suggesting an approximate 30% increase in sitting time and a 30% reduction in physical activity (Ammar et al. 2020).

With risk factors for serious illness from Covid-19, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, being linked to reduced physical activity, this drop-in activity isn’t a positive shift! Physical inactivity itself has been linked to 3,000,000 deaths per year which is a staggering figure and evidence strongly links a physically sedentary lifestyle to a significantly increased risk for chronic disease (Hall et al. 2020).

During these last 6 months alone, in clinic we have seen many patients presenting with problems related to a substantial reduction in physical activity, with soreness and stiffness due quite simply to a lack of movement. This is even seen in cases where people are still doing several sessions of exercise in the week, but where cumulative movement on a daily basis has plummeted. 

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Step counts have dramatically dropped with the loss of commutes and mid-day lunch run’s, sports teams and local leagues not currently functioning, and the closure of gyms, so many have lost their regular schedules that enable them to keep more active. This is causing its own set of problems and in the long term is detrimental to all aspects of health. 

The benefits of exercise are multifactorial, with a positive effect on immune function, mental health, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing fitness and quality of life, and treating and preventing chronic illness. 

Guidelines suggest that we should be doing 150 – 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week.

This equates to five 30 minute sessions 5 times a week as a baseline. This can include activities such as household tasks like cleaning or gardening, as well as general movement during the day with the goal of sitting less and moving more, but should also include exercise that raises your heart rate.

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This may seem like an insurmountable task when motivation is at an all-time low after a tough year, so below are some simple tips on how to integrate more movement throughout your day:

  • Set reminders to move hourly. A gentle nudge to get up from your chair, have a stretch and then sit back down. This will add movement to your day without being another thing’ you have to remember.
  • Ensure you are hydrated. Drinking lots of water will also mean that you need to have frequent breaks (and subsequently move more).
  • If taking regular calls throughout the day that are not video based, can you take them standing? Or when appropriate, even get outside and walk while taking them.
  • Rather than snoozing your alarm and rolling out of bed just in time for work, try to get up a bit earlier and get out on a pre-work walk to set you up for the day — see it as an equivalent to your commute’.
  • Team up with a friend for scheduled exercise outdoors. If lacking motivation, diarising an activity with someone else provides you with some accountability to get it done — and adds in some socialisation too!
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As always, if you are experiencing pain that is not settling book a consultation with one of our specialists who will be able to give you specific treatment and advice.