As life as we know it changes and physical interaction is limited, being active is more important than ever.
Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind.
It can reduce high blood pressure, help manage weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. It also improves bone and muscle strength and increases balance, flexibility and fitness. For older people, activities that improve balance help to prevent falls and injuries. For children, regular physical activity helps support healthy growth and development and reduce the risk of disease in later life, and through regular activity, children can develop fundamental movement skills and build social relationships.
Regular physical activity also improves mental health and can reduce the risk of depression, cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia - and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
Doing some form of exercise is an easy and free way to boost both your mental and physical health, and now is the ideal time to try a new activity.
If you’re working or studying from home, or not currently working, you’re won’t be getting the incidental exercise you normally do by commuting to and from an office or uni.
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And if you’re the kind of person who likes to get active in a group, your usual pursuits like gym classes and team sports are no longer an option.
When you add the above to higher-than-usual anxiety levels, you’ll start to see why a stretch in your lounge room could really help right now!
Physical activity helps our body and mind in many ways, but here are a few of the key ones:
- Exercise releases chemicals in your brain, like serotonin and endorphins, which are great for your mood
- It can also lead to better sleep and give you more energy
- Physical movements can help ease tightness in your shoulders and neck, which often come with stress and anxiety
- It also makes you feel like you achieved something
- Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of serious health issues, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke
- It also helps with weight management (and you tend to feel like eating a healthier diet when you’re exercising regularly, too)
- And lastly, but definitely not least given the current situation, regular physical activity is great for your immune system.
If you’re new to exercise, or feeling a little lost because your normal way of staying fit isn’t possible right now, here are some ideas to get you moving:
- Take your workout online: On YouTube there are endless free exercise videos to try, regardless of your fitness level or the size of your living room. From yoga and strength workouts to Pilates, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and more. Our This Girl Can – Victoria ambassador Sana also has some great tips on exercising at home. For more inspiration head to the Sport Aus Find Your 30 campaign.
- Personal trainers, dance instructors and other qualified fitness professionals are getting savvy and moving their classes online. So, you can join a class virtually, and get the social connection benefits of exercise too.
- Go freestyle: If a structured routine is not your style, get creative and build your own workout – instead of weights use household items like filled water bottles and cans or jars of food (if you can find some!), walk or run on the spot for 30 second intervals, do some star jumps, planks, sit ups, push ups, or even burpees. Anything to get your heart rate up a little.
- Go solo outside if you can: Walking, cycling and running are great solo activities and safe if you’re feeling well and haven’t been asked to self-isolate. We suggest going early in the morning or late in the day, and avoiding streets and parks with high foot traffic, to minimise your risk. Remember to pack some hand sanitiser containing at least 60 per cent alcohol and stay at least 1.5 metres away from to other people. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as soon as you return indoors.
A word of advice before you start: If you’re new to exercise, start small – try maybe 10 minutes of yoga or walking a day, then gradually build up.
Even 10 minutes of movement a day can help your body and mind feel better. Encourage your loved ones, who you’re no doubt spending a lot of time with right now, to take a moment to move their bodies too.
And please, if you’re not feeling well, follow the advice of your health professional – including some rest. It’s vital that we prioritise the health and safety of ourselves, family, friends and the community.
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