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Nov 20

Second lockdown: How to stay fit and healthy during the winter – The Independent

Following the first nationwide lockdown in March, people across the country revealed they had been struggling with their physical wellbeing; 48 per cent of respondents in a Kings College study said they had put on weight, 29 per cent had drunk more alcohol, and half reported feeling more mentally anxious about life generally.

The combination of pandemic-related stresses, the loss of normal routine and spending more time indoors, makes it harder to stay motivated to exercise, to eat well, reduce screen time and get enough sleep. But as we face a second lockdown - this time in the colder, darker months of winter - it is more important than ever that we dont fall into the same traps.

Of course keeping our health on the agenda should be a priority 365 days a year but with coronavirus in circulation - a virus that is more likely to cause serious symptoms to those who are overweight or with underlying health conditions - during the pandemic it is more crucial than ever to ensure we fortify ourselves against illness.

Regardless of your age or current fitness, this isnt just about quick-fix solutions, but using this time at home to address lifestyle choices and setting yourself up long-term. While no one would argue lockdown is an easy period, it could be the springboard to make positive changes going forward.


Now gyms are shut and the nights have drawn in, getting out to move your body seems more daunting. But staying active is not only crucial for maintaining a steady weight but also for your mood too. The NHS says exercise reduces your risk of major illness, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and lowers your risk of early death by up to 30 per cent.

And this doesnt mean you have to become a fitness fanatic - just 150 minutes of activity per week for adults is beneficial. This doesnt need to be time set aside just for exercise (which can make it feel a daunting chore). Incorporate it into your everyday life - walk the longer way to the supermarket, get off the bus the stop before yours or go for a family weekend cycle.

The NHS says what you are aiming for is: To be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer. This level of effort is called moderate intensity activity.

Why not download the NHSs Couch to 5k running app? It doesnt need any equipment or experience of running and will guide you through getting started. Or the Active 10 walking app, which counts every step of walking you do - it all adds up. Fitness coach Joe Wicks is hosting PE lessons on YouTube again - as he did in March. If you have children, try them as a family activity.

Maintain a healthy diet

If, like many other Brits, you found you put on weight in the first lockdown you want to ensure you dont do the same again now. Not least because being overweight can increase your risk when it comes to Covid-19. But its easier said than done when being at home lends itself to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the cold weather just makes us crave filling carbohydrates.

First start by checking your BMI (body mass index) to see whether you need to lose weight - the NHS uses this as the metric for measuring weight in the population. You can use the free tool here to calculate yours. This will help you understand if there is a problem, and the scale of it.

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As well as taking up exercise, the NHS has an accessible (and free) 12-week weight loss plan to kickstart your healthy eating. It promotes safe and sustainable weight loss and is designed to help you lose the pounds at a safe rate of between 0.5kg and 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week. This is done by a daily calorie allowance of 1,900 for most men and 1,400 for most women. The plan is intended for adults with a BMI of 25 or higher.

You should also be aware of how much alcohol you are consuming and remember the recommended weekly intake is 14 units for both men and women - spread over the week.

Use the NHS Eatwell Guide to show you how to make a healthy, balanced meal. You should also be considering taking daily Vitamin D supplements during the pandemic (between the months of October and early March) as we are getting less sunlight than ever before - leaving many people deficient. You can buy vitamin D from most pharmacies, supermarkets and other retailers. Just 10 micrograms a day is all you need.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, stopping is one of the best things you can do for your health, says the NHS. The benefits start almost immediately (not just to your health but also your finances) and it is never too late to quit. A study by University College London (UCL) found over one million people in the UK had given up the habit in the pandemic.

Now you can be one of them. Download the free NHS Smokefree app, which allows you to track your progress, see how much youre saving and get support.

You can also find out about stop smoking aids - like nicotine patches. The NHS says you might find e-cigarettes, which are less harmful, can help you transition to quitting. If you can make it to 28 days smoke-free youre five times more likely to quit for good.

Keep in contact with your GP

Unlike in the first lockdown, the government is now actively asking people to keep their NHS appointments - unless your clinician cancels or says otherwise - and engage with your GP if you need help.

Dont wait in silence, especially for pre-existing conditions or if you spot any new symptoms that arise during lockdown.

You should also speak to your GP about getting the flu jab - as this year more people than ever are eligible for a free one on the NHS in a bid to protect the health service. Find out if you are eligible here.

Continued here:
Second lockdown: How to stay fit and healthy during the winter - The Independent

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