Lockdown Diaries: The importance of exercise during lockdown and beyond

Ketan Dattani

When compared to the spectre of death and global economic collapse, gym closures seem pretty low on the list of calamities caused by the pandemic, but exercise is particularly important now because it boosts us physically and mentally.

Physical activity helps to keep our immune systems working effectively as it flushes bacteria from the lungs and airways, increases white blood cell circulation and raises body temperature, all of which help the body fight infection.

As well as the physical health benefits, keeping active is a great way to ward off some of the psychological issues associated with being cooped up for an extended time.

Being active helps lower stress hormones such as cortisol and promotes the release of feel-good hormones, such as endorphins.

The pandemic and lockdown have served as a reminder to us on how important it is to maintain the right exercise routine, even from our living rooms.

The good news is that lockdown doesn’t mean stopping the activity and I am using this time to get fitter and stronger than ever, albeit while adapting my workout so that it can be done from home.

For most people, adapting workouts to a home environment is completely new territory and one that requires creativity and most importantly an understanding of basic exercise principles. Why basic principles? Because our bodies perceive exercise as a stimulus irrespective of the setting. Therefore, we can apply and manipulate this stimulus in the home environment to elicit the same desired response like increased strength, fitness, or muscle tone.

The simplest way to work out at home is to use your own body. I found a variety of effective body weight exercises on YouTube that help build strength, endurance and burn calories. And by circuit training (going from one exercise to the next, without little or no rest), you keep your heart rate up, burn more calories and get the most out of your exercise time.

Body-weight HIIT workouts are relatively short and don’t take up much space. Best of all, they don’t require any equipment.

Exercising at home does not have to be a costly affair

Training at home doesn’t have to be expensive. To add some variation to my bodyweight workouts I have invested in a set of resistance bands costing a mere fraction of what my monthly gym membership would have.

Most mornings I am feeling motivated to do my daily 40-minute bodyweight and resistance band routine, but even with the best of intentions, some days I find my motivation waning.

For this reason, it’s important to set goals, big and small, and to schedule your workouts and keep track of your progress.

It’s helpful to record the level of resistance you use, how many repetitions of an exercise you do and how many sets of exercises you complete determining when you need to change up your routine.

Moreover, staying at home tends to mean more eating and less moving which means that it is a struggle to burn as many calories as usual.

There is a lot of research that indicates that when people are in a crisis when they are highly stressed, one of the first things that will change is their eating behaviour.

There are physiological reasons that the body tends to crave high-calorie and high-sugar foods during stressful times, as these foods provide short-term bursts of energy. It is imperative now more than ever to get your diet right.  A good diet is always beneficial, but when you’re in your late 40’s and desk-bound, as I am, it becomes especially important to your overall health.

Stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which can increase appetite. And sugary foods generate dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and reward.

Protein is especially crucial for health, particularly in times when the immune system might need to fight back. If like me you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you have plenty of plant-based proteins such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and edamame to choose from.

Finally, if ever there was a time to apply the power of positive thinking, this is it. Seeing the closure of gyms as less as a blow to your fitness, and more as a chance to switch things up and progress.

Ketan Dattani

Ketan holds over 20 years of recruitment experience and has a high profile within the sector. Widely documented as an expert on Employment Law, Employee rights and for providing Careers Advice, Ketan is a graduate of Environmental Biology and post-graduate of Environmental Planning and Management, with certificates in Employment Law and Recruitment Practice - both nationally recognised recruitment qualifications developed jointly by the REC and key employers.