Marc Hamilton - Human Perspective
Chartered Psychologist - St Albans & London

Winter can seriously impact on your exercise routine

exercise

Social distancing, self-quarantining, and the closure of many gyms have made it harder to exercise. As we move into the winter months, cold weather and less daylight may impact your COVID workout routine.

The importance of staying physically active during the COVID-19 pandemic

All of our daily routines remain restricted during the coronavirus pandemic, it can become harder to find the motivation to exercise. With the challenges of working from home and limited access to fitness facilities, it is becoming harder to stick to a workout routine.

With so many people out of work and struggling financially, staying active can seem like much less of a priority. However, even a small amount of activity can make a huge difference to how well you think and feel. This is backed up by research, for example NICE guidelines recommend 10-15 minutes cardiovascular exercise three time a week to help with mild anxiety and depressive symptoms. Exercise is one of your most powerful tools in staying physically and mentally healthy.

Physical exercise and getting fitter will not prevent you from catching the virus. But it can help by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals in your brain that help in elevating your mood and helping with your sleep. If you exercise you may be less likely to use other unhelpful coping strategies, such as increasing your alcohol consumption – which will affect your fitness.

The goal is to make small changes that you can build on to staying active easier until the weather gets warmer. Regular physical exercise can also lift your mood and mitigate against depressive symptoms.

What we are finding that daily routine us helpful in managing during the pandemic, set your fitness activity as with your other work and family commitments, stick to your workout routine.

You have to find the right workout time for you. Morning exercise can set you up for the day, or you may find a break during the day can energise you when you return to work. I would not suggest doing your workout later at night as it takes time to unwind and this timing may disrupt your sleep.
Set concrete goals as that help in monitoring your physical exercise workouts. For example, walking 30 minutes in the morning on three weekdays – Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Consider downloading a smartphone app to keep a record of your walk’s length, distance, and effort. It can become a great way to see your progress and encourage you in your workouts. Going for a walk around the block will not only stretch your legs but help clear your head as well.

Tips for getting the activity you need during COVID-19

Before starting exercising, remember to be safe, wear warm clothing, start slowly and warm up before you start. If you have pre-existing health conditions, maybe talk with your GP. If you feel pain during any exercise, stop.

Getting outside as much as you can during winter is your goal. Unless you are self-quarantining, try to get out by walking, jogging, or cycling – but remember to maintain a safe distance from others.

Keep it interesting. Immerse yourself in the full experience of walking outdoors by adding a mindfulness element. Notice the smell of the air, the variety of trees and shrubs, the feel of the sun or the wind as you move If you find you need to up the intensity of your walks, look for hills, do some step ups on the curb at each corner, skip, or even jump up and down the curb a few times (if appropriate for your fitness level and joints).

Try something new. Find a free YouTube video, subscribe to one of the many online classes available or download an app to guide you from the safety of your own home. Many people find they are more comfortable trying something new when no one else is watching. Try pilates or hatha yoga. There are many new, and often free, classes being posted daily to support people in their fitness pursuits during the pandemic. Just remember to avoid causing yourself pain.

During this time of uncertainty and fear, it’s important to remember that when it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing.