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COVID-19 Blog Series: Managing your activity levels while in home isolation

For various reasons, many of us may find ourselves spending a lot more time at home in the weeks to come, as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With time, we may begin to struggle to find the motivation to exercise. We may even start to spend less time moving about. Like many others, you will probably find yourself spending more time sitting in front of the computer and lounging on your couch while binge watching your favourite television shows. After all, it is very easy to come up with excuses not to keep up your level of fitness while in home isolation. In truth, with many of us spending less time walking due to the lack of need to travel and having most things within arm’s reach at home, it is more important now than ever to make an effort to maintain your activity levels. There are several reasons why this lifestyle is not sustainable in the long term.

Whilst exercise has been shown to promote cognitive (thinking) function, sleep quality and mental health, studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a number of health complications. These include increased risks of heart conditions, diabetes, and increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Additionally, being inactive causes your body to put on weight which increases stress on your joints, your muscles to lose strength and endurance, and your bones to lose density. When it comes to the health of your bones, muscles, and joints, there are a few reasons why we think it is important that you should consider incorporating simple stretches and exercises into your daily activity while in home isolation.

Reason #1: Inactivity and lack of exercise and movement contributes to deconditioning

Exercise and movement help to maintain the neural connection between the brain and the body, which allows for better muscle activation. Read our previous post on the sensorimotor system here to get a better understanding of how the neural connection between the brain and the body work. Inactivity and lack of exercise is associated with decreased muscle activation, which we refer to as deconditioning. In essence, your body becomes less adept and more prone to injury when performing even the simplest of tasks. With some of us potentially doing a lot more housework and gardening while at home, it is important to maintain a certain level of fitness to not get injured when performing rigorous tasks.

Reason #2: Maintaining level of fitness allows quicker return to activity

Some among us may have been more heavily involved in sporting activities before lockdown restrictions stop us from being able to do so. If you are looking to return as soon as possible and perform at the level you were at prior to the lockdown restrictions, it is important that you maintain your level of fitness. Returning too quickly to similar levels of activity at a lower level of fitness increases the risk of injury.

Now that you have an understanding of why it is essential that we incorporate movement and exercise into our home isolation lifestyle, let us have a look at several ways you can start to make a change.

Tip #1: Set a timer to remind yourself to have a walk after every hour of sitting

Arguably even more important than introducing exercise and movement is to minimise the amount of time you spend being idle. We recommend not spending more than one hour at a time in one position without moving. When working on the computer or at the desk, set a timer to remind yourself to get up and have a little walk around your house before going back to your work. You could use this opportunity to take a bathroom break or fix yourself a snack or get a glass of water.

Tip #2: Do some light stretches when watching television

On top of taking a break from sitting, doing some light stretches could help to break the pattern of inactivity. Even simple stretches for the neck, back, shoulders, hips, arms, and legs, which involves simple movements will all contribute to help the muscles and joints feel loose.

Tip #3: Spend some time doing simple exercises

Consider taking some time out each day to perform simple exercises. While stretches will help to keep the muscles and joints feel loose, exercises will help to maintain strength.

At this time, if you find yourself feeling stiff and tight anyway, it may be a good idea to seek treatment. When muscles and joints are tight and stiff, there is a higher risk of hurting yourself doing the simplest of things like bending over to tie your shoelaces or collecting your laundry from the washing machine. Rather than waiting until you hurt yourself before you seek treatment, why not keep yourself in good shape and avoid that trouble entirely.

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