Exercising through a Pandemic: Personal and Practical benefits

Physical Activity is something our bodies need, to help maintain a healthy mind and body. However, often misunderstood, people exercise for ‘weight management’ believing that burning calories leads to weightloss. A balanced diet, with regular fluid intake and good sleep hygeine contribute more to physical health management than exercise will alone.

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor”, is a quote from a Roman politician, showing how physical movement has been considered a support, since the Medieval Era. Time has moved on and exercise has evolved, but it remains something important for most, today.

The scientific evidence behind the benefits of exercise is vast, including :

  • Brain Activity- Exercising releases chemicals, such as Serotonin in the brain, which helps increase focus, productivity and that feel-good factor setting you up for the day.
  • Disease Prevention- Research shows that moderate exercise can help prevent biological diseases, including Heart failure, Bone health (Osteoporosis, Arthiritis) and Type-2-Diabetes. Aside from the major health factors, natural aches and pains will be less-likely or prolonged.
  • Mental Health- Involving physical activity in your day-to-day life is said to help increase energy levels and suppress low mood/depression. Music, social interaction and motivation get those all important endorphins pumping.

It is important to remember that all bodies are different, therefore have different needs! If you are concerned about your health, or need help building an exercise plan individual to you, approach your GP or local gym for guidance.

The Sports Sector and Covid-19

Covid-19 has been a detriment to many aspects of society, but sporting communities have been forced to cancel, or postpone major events. The 2020 Summer Olympics has been put in the books for 2021, The London Marathon was whittled down to an Elite-Athlete only race and football/rugby leagues are adapting to the everchanging rules. It became clear, early on that big events would be affected by Covid-19, but luckily funding has helped club’s manage. For top athletes, however, continuing with such a high-level of training, could be a risk to their competion day performance.

Just as the Elite sector are having to adapt, ammature clubs are too. Infact, the financial risk for Football leagues low in the table, Diving schools dependant on specific facilities and locally run athletic groups is much greater. Updates from Athletics England have been amended appropriate to Government guidelines, but unless you can train at home, or outdoors the facilities available remain limited.

Through the course of the Pandemic, there has been great media coverage on exercise and why it should be accessible. Gyms have been a focal point, as many people claim it helps their mental health and the relief of stress. In England, between the first and second wave of Covid-19, some facilities, such as gyms, could reopen. In this time, I spoke to the manager of Sheffield Diving Club to find out just how they had managed to train and what life looked like out of the water. Ponds Forge, where they trained had been closed and was due to reopen. Alas, the second lockdown came. Most recently I approached Tickhill Running and Athletics Club (TRAC*) members, to help voice their thoughts on running, especially through the pandemic.

Getting to know TRAC members

Located in a South Yorkshire village, Tickhill Running and Athletic Club is an amateur sports team. Founded in 2005, the Club welcomes its local community to start running and to meet friendly faces. I spoke to current members, posing the question(s):

What does exercise mean to you? What motivates you to go out and run?

“I love how I feel afterwards, it is space to clear my mind, stretch out my body and because I am nicer when I do. I love running with other people, for that different kind of social interaction and alone because I can occasionally lose myself, I am just moving. I also do other exercise for fun, challenge and to use up calories. I enjoy the gentle experience of slow open water swimming for the great lift it gives and now learn that it staves off dementia. Yoga is a fantastic holistic form of exercise, caring for and balancing Mind, Body and Soul. Exercise helps me be the best version of me”, Karen.

“I run and exercise to help with my Mental Health, and the distress after work.  I have found it to be a coping strategy and I like the company, as I live on my own. I find everyone at club really nice and approachable. I am sure they would help if I needed it“, Lynn.

“I first got into running as a cheap way of keeping fit, but quickly found that was only part of it.  Running gives my mind space to re-set within in my busy life and at very difficult times it has been a means of escape, having made fabulous friendships…”, Carol.

Why has exercise been important throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic?

“…throughout the pandemic and living alone, exercise has given me a way of ensuring that, if I do fall prey to Covid I will be the fittest and healthiest I can be. I’m very pleased that so far I haven’t had to test out that theory”, Carol.

“I refound my passion for exercise during the first lockdown in England. For years I struggled with an eating disorder, and compulsive exercise which destroyed the relationship I had with myself. However, I put my running shoes back on in March and haven’t looked back. When restrictions were lifted and exercise was permitted for groups, I joined TRAC to give me that extra push. I’m the youngest member of the club, but have felt welcome since day one. As we can’t run together right now, I’ve adapted to running with the radio to keep me company. Covid-19 has been a time of uncertainty and for me was a test of ‘fight or flight’. Exercise provided safety and escape from an overwhelming reality”, Heather.

TRAC Headtorch Run, previous to Lockdown

Sports; What to expect after Lockdown 2.0

On Monday 23 November, Boris Johnson (PM) made a national announcement, outlining the next steps to managing the Coronavirus. On 2 December, England will come out of its National ‘Lockdown’ and return to a localised Tier System- the Government is set to announce further information 26 November- with the hope that some areas will make a slow return to ‘normality’.

Key points :

  • Spectator sports will open to 4,000 fans in Tier 1 areas but 2,000 in Tier two; Social Distancing must be adhered, aswell as appropriate face coverings.
  • Indoor venues, such as Gyms will reopen in Tier 1 and 2 areas.
  • Outdoor exercise will be permitted for up to six people in Tier’s 1,2 and 3.
  • Elite Sport can resume.
  • Grassroots (amateur) Sports remains banned, unless adhereing to the rule-of-six, outdoors.

For more details, see https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus or https://www.englandathletics.org/.

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