Exercise and restricted movement - Alexandra Connelly

The current guidelines around coronavirus and the restrictions this is placing on people, whether they’re self-isolating or practicing social distancing, can result in us all becoming less physically active.   While the guidance currently allows us outdoors for ‘one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household’ (NHS, 2020), there is plenty we can be doing at home to increase our activity levels during lockdown and reduce the amount of time that we are sedentary.   

Exercise is one of the most under used resources we all have at our fingertips and the benefits of introducing it into our daily lives is vast.  It helps to keep us healthy, to regulate sleep, to maintain a healthy weight, to improve our quality of life and, importantly during these uncertain times, to manage stress.   And, if that isn’t enough to entice you to want to move more, consider this; it reduces our chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 40%, cardiovascular disease by 35%, falls and depression by 30%, joint and back problems by 25% and colon and breast cancer by 20% (UK Chief Medical Officer, 2019).  Pretty good odds and, as a further incentive, it is free!  No prescription charges or expensive equipment needed. 

‘Where is the catch?’, I hear you ask. Well, in order to get these benefits, we need to be moving around enough to increase our heart rates, breathe faster and feel warmer, while still being able to talk.   This is classed as moderate intensity exercise and it is recommended that we do at least 150 minutes of this per week (UK Chief Medical Officer, 2019).  Now, this may sound like a daunting amount of time but let’s put it in to perspective.  If you do an average of 22 minutes every day for seven days (not even a whole episode of your favourite soap), you will have done 4 minutes over the recommended 150 minutes for the week!  On at least two days of the week to keep muscles, bones and joint strong try and build in a strength element to your activity.  This could be something as simple as digging in the garden or cleaning the car.  

So let’s ease in gently with some tips to encourage us to all become more active, because it is never too late to make a start:

  • If you are able, try to go for your ‘one form of daily exercise’ outside.  Ideas of moderate intensity exercises include a brisk walk or a bike ride.  However, this must be done in line with the current recommendations from the UK Government.  Activities such as dancing will also count as moderate exercise and can be done in the comfort of your own home. 
  • If you are finding it difficult to fit exercise in to your daily routine, for example, whilst working from home, then set time aside to do it.  Some people prefer to exercise first thing in the morning, while others find they are better later in the day.  It doesn’t matter when you do it, just that you do. 
  • Pace yourself and build up exercise gradually.  You can always do more the next day if you feel able. 
  • Set goals to keep you motivated.
  • Do exercise that is fun and enjoyable – this will increase your likelihood of sticking to it.  
  • Break up periods of inactivity as part of your working from home routine
  • If you are sitting, try and stand up for a couple of minutes every 30 minutes to an hour[JK1] 
  • [MC2] Remain standing when you are making a cuppa 
  • To the toilet upstairs instead of using a downstairs toilet, if you can
  • Doing some of the exercises detailed below

 

Exercises Ideas for Home (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 2018)

Sit to stand – sit tall towards the front of a chair with your feet slightly back.  Lean forwards slightly and stand up using your hands if needed.  Step back until you can feel the chair with your legs and sit down slowly in the chair. Repeat 10 times. 

Heel raises – Stand tall holding on to the back of a sturdy chair or at the kitchen sink.  Lift your heels off the floor, taking your weight onto your toes.  Hold for 3 seconds and then lower your heels to the floor.  Repeat 10 times. 

Toe raises – Stand tall holding on to the back of a sturdy chair or at the kitchen sink.  Raise your toes off the floor putting your weight onto your heels.  Hold for 3 seconds and then lower your toes back to the floor.  Repeat 10 times. 

One leg stand - Stand tall holding on to the back of a sturdy chair or at the kitchen sink.  Balance on one leg while keeping your posture upright.  Hold for 10 seconds.  Repeat on the other leg. 

Heel-toe stand - Stand tall holding on to the back of a sturdy chair or at the kitchen sink.  Put one foot directly in front of the other to make a straight line.  Look ahead.  If you are able and safe to do so, take your hand off your chair/kitchen sink and balance for 10 seconds.  Repeat with the other leg. 

Heel toe walking – Stand tall, with one hand on a support, for example the kitchen work-surface.  Look ahead and walk 10 steps forwards, placing one foot directly in front of the other as if you are walking  a tightrope.  At the end of the line, return your feet to hip width apart and turn around and repeat the steps in the other direction.  

Safety advice: Make sure the chair you use is sturdy and that you wear supportive shoes.  If you experience any chest pain, dizziness or severe shortness of breath then stop and call your GP/111 or 999.  A slight soreness the day after is quite normal. 

The above exercises can be found online with pictures at https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/keeping-active-and-healthy/staying-healthy-you-age/staying-strong-you-age/strength

Disclaimer: The above activities should not cause any harm.  However they might not be suitable for everyone, particularly those at risks of falls and fractures.  Please consult your GP if you are embarking on any new fitness programme, and if you do experience pain or discomfort as a result of the exercises, stop immediately.  

Currently, there are lots of resources available online which can help you to become physically active while being at home.  These resources are available online and are listed below.  

NHS Physical Activity Guidelines and tips for older adults – 

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-older-adults/?tabname=fitness-guides

AgeUK Staying Steady –

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/information-guides/ageukig14_staying_steady_inf.pdf

Later Life Training Make Movement your Mission providing exercise videos online for older people and those who have been less active and want to ease back into movement and activity –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjUqXg3Ky6s&list=PLeePVUq4FvWu9uSwUK8YMwZlVjx1CKp8q

Alexandra Connolly is a Specialist Neurological Physiotherapist with an interest in wellbeing and physical activity. Working with people from all backgrounds and abilities, Alexandra specialises in working with those who have been diagnosed with neurological barriers to physical wellness, such as Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological conditions as well as brain injury and stroke. You can find Alexandra on LinkedIn for details of her work and private practice

References

NHS.  (2020).  Advice for Everyone: Coronavirus (Covid-19).

UK Chief Medical Officer. (2019).Physical Activity Guidelines.

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.  (2018). Never too Late! Physiotherapy Advice for Maintaining Strength as We Age.