Being physically active is good for both your mental health and physical wellbeing.
Exercise increases your sense of wellbeing and has some direct stress-busting benefits, as it increases the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. Studies also show we burn up stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, when we exercise; another reason we feel better after being physically active.
It’s also an excellent coping strategy; focusing the brain away from worry and acting as a distraction from everyday stresses. At this difficult time, being physically active and mindful is going to be a fantastic copying mechanism as we adjust to life with Covid-19.
So how can we recognise when we are stressed and what can we do to manage it better?
Key indicators of stress can include:
- Being irritable
- Feeling overwhelmed and anxious
- Trouble sleeping or being tired all the time
- Eating more or less than normal
- Drinking alcohol more than normal
- Avoiding situations
- Having difficulty concentrating or racing thoughts
Be more active:
Go for a walk, a run or participate in some of the fantastic online and live-streamed classes from Trafford Leisure. Keeping active throughout the day will help your body to rest at night, helping you get a better night’s sleep.
Allow yourself some positivity:
Take time to think about the good things in your life. Each day, consider what went well and try to list a few things you are grateful for.
Simple mindfulness practices will help you rewire negative biases you may have, as well as developing your ability to laugh more, reducing tensions and stresses along the way. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and can be practised whilst seated, walking or standing. Mindfulness involves paying attention to our thoughts and emotions in a way that increases our ability to manage a situation. Courses and apps sharing mindful tips can be found online. https://headspace.com
Talk to someone and reconnect:
Research shows that reaching out to others reduces our stress levels. Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling. We often leave friendships too long without communication, and this can leave us feeling isolated and disconnected from the world. Today, although we can’t physically meet our friends, there are many ways to keep us a connected. Write a letter, send an email or text message, make a phone call. There are also many other communication apps such as Houseparty and FaceTime.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by working from home or trying to home school the children, create a simple to-do list. Try to prepare in advance as much as possible, such as meal plans and key assignments. Tick off tasks as you complete. But be realistic, and don’t set unrealistic goals. You are doing your best and that is enough.
It’s important to have things to look forward to, as this will help you stay optimistic even if things are bleak now. What are you most looking forward to doing post lockdown? Where would you most like to visit? Who can’t you wait to see again? This isn’t forever.
Follow Trafford Leisure on Facebook. We are doing live classes every day for all abilities. Interact with the instructor and fellow people taking part in the exercise. We at Trafford Leisure are trying to keep you moving, not just to keep you physically active, but to help you mentally too. We want to get the endorphins flowing through your body; we want to help you de-stress, and we want to help you to interact with others until our facilities are open again.
Exercise goals during the Covid-19 Pandemic:
Covid-19 means a lot of people’s personal goals have had to change or be put on hold. This is part of life now; we may be on a lockdown for weeks or even months yet, so alter your goals, build in a maintenance phase, keep it simple and be realistic.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep up with what you were doing before, but do take advantage of the many health and mood-boosting benefits moving more has to offer.
Space restrictions at home and a lack of equipment can make physical activity tougher too, so adapt your routine and goal. Do what you can, and that’s enough. It’s important that you are kind to yourself during this pandemic and understand that you are doing the best with what you have.
Set yourself sensible short term and long term goals, and try to make progress each day towards these goals. There will be bumps in the road – but get back on track, this will help you make sustainable and positive changes to your locked down life.
- Get outdoors: Walking, cycling or jogging can help you get some much-needed fresh air while staying safely away from others. Breathe deeply and enjoy.
- Take part in our online and streamed classes. There are many types of classes available, suitable for all abilities. How many steps can you do in a day? Do you have a tracking device? You’ll be surprised how many steps housework, gardening or playing with the kids can build
- Exercise with family: Exercise is an excellent opportunity for family fun. Bike rides, dance parties, living-room yoga sessions or backyard soccer games. .
- Tackle calorie-burning chores: Mowing the lawn, working in the garden, washing the car, cleaning out the garage, washing floors etc all provide excellent opportunities for physical activity.
Use the time to walk that extra half mile or do that extra press up each day. Your goals during this pandemic are for progress not perfection.
Active Living Manager / Personal Trainer
For the last 12 years, Sabrina, 30, from Stretford, has explored and reassessed her lifestyle, her outlook on life and her view on physical activity. Her body and mind makeover is proof that changes do not happen overnight, but that commitment and small steps forward will make sustainable transformations that would last for life.
Even during the current Covid-19 lockdown Sabrina is keeping physical activity as part of her daily schedule. Whilst the leisure centre doors are closed, Sabrina has been continuing her cardio workouts at home, including online live classes through Trafford Leisure’s Facebook page.
Sabrina says: “I’m trying to do at least an hour’s exercise at home every day. It helps to keep a fitness routine during these difficult times. Obviously, I have to adapt some exercises due to space restrictions at home and a lack of equipment, but I’m doing what I can, and that’s enough. It’s important that people are kind to themselves during this pandemic and understand that they are doing the best with what they have.”
Sabrina’s fitness journey started in 2007, when she first joined Stretford Leisure Centre, when she was 18 years old. Sabrina had always been overweight as a child and, over time, her weight continued to rise. She says: “I didn’t enjoy PE at school. I wasn’t encouraged or inspired. This led me to have no interest in exercise. As a result, there was very little activity and movement in my life. I wasn’t very confident because of how others my age made me feel about my size and appearance. So, I just focused on my studies. I wasn’t happy. My parents would tell me to lose weight, but that didn’t work. I had to make the decision to want to do it myself.”
In 2007, Sabrina realised that if she continued as she was, then she would be at more risk of future health issues, many of which she could have reduced if she invested her time in health and fitness. This led her to join Stretford Leisure Centre, where she met with Trafford Leisure’s Level Three fitness instructor and personal trainer, Pete Lockwood. Pete introduced her to the equipment, showed her around the facilities, and created a personalised exercise plan for her.
Sabrina says: “For someone like me, just stepping into the gym for the first time was scary. I felt very self-conscious about my size and had been judged on it for many years at school. I was worried that I would attract similar negative attention at the gym. However, Pete made me feel very welcome. He was amazing and gave me the confidence and the boost to start and keep turning up. He was someone that I could share my progress with, and he’d be genuinely happy for me.”
For two years Sabrina used the gym equipment most weekends. She lost some weight and was now feeling more comfortable about having a fitness routine. However, she started to feel that she should, and could, do more to push her fitness. So, aged 20, she decided to start exercise classes for the first time.
Sabrina says: “This was a big step for me. When I was at the gym, I could just get on with my workout quietly and privately. I didn’t know what to expect from the classes and whether my fitness level was good enough for them. It felt daunting. ”
Sabrina participated in both spinning and pump classes; doing these sessions three times a week. She continues: “The instructors were fantastic. They brought an energy that was inspiring and motivating. I ended up loving the classes and they became my main form of exercise. There’s a lovely community feeling that you’re all working to improve your own life, with the opportunity to make friends too.
A year after starting the classes, Sabrina undertook a new fitness trial – Martial Arts. This was a brand new fitness test for her. It would test and stretch her mobility, flexibility, speed, strength, and agility. Over the years Sabrina has passed many martial art gradings (tests) and is now a second degree black belt in Soo Bahk Do.
Sabrina says: “My fitness and health journey has been a long one. 12 years ago I avoided exercise, but here I am now. I’m older, wiser, stronger, and healthier. Coming to Trafford Leisure’s Stretford Leisure Centre has changed my life. I could never have imaged my life being like this many years ago. Through fitness, I’m becoming more confident in myself. I’ve made good friends at the gym, enjoy meeting new people, and like having a catch up with others at the centre’s café.”
Since starting her health and fitness journey 12 years ago, Sabrina has lost 3.5 stones, gained her PhD in Business and Management, and has recently got engaged. She’s excited about the next chapter in her life and where her fitness journey will take her.
Sabrina concludes: “I’ve invested in my life through working to improve my health and fitness. My fitness journey has been a marathon not a sprint. There’s been many ups and downs, but that’s a natural part of life. The key is that I never gave up and I always remember why I started this adventure in the first place.”
Follow Trafford Leisure’s social media platforms for the latest:
Facebook – @traffordleisurecic
Instagram – @traffordleisure
Twitter – @Traffordleisure
You can also follow Sabrina’s fitness journey online:
You might be trying new exercises during lockdown; be that one of our online exercise classes or having a go at running or cycling. Whatever your exercise routine, it’s important to properly warm up before your workout and spend time stretching as part of your schedule.
The current lock down might mean you’re spending more time sat down at home so gentle stretching and movement may be helpful to prevent you developing poor posture and the aches and pains that can come with it.
Below are some of the key benefits of stretching, as well as guidance on when and how to stretch.
Regular stretching can improve your flexibility. Not only can this help you achieve impressive things, such as doing the splits, it also makes everyday tasks, like picking things up off the floor or putting socks on, easier. Maintaining a level of flexibility will help you stay as independent as possible into later life.
Stretches may help prevent injuries. If you’re not very flexible or have muscles that are tight and shortened, it can put you at higher risk of injuring yourself whilst working out.
Maintaining good posture is important to keep you pain free and mobile. Certain lifestyle factors can have an impact on our posture. For example, sitting at a desk can cause a group of muscles, called our hip flexors, to become shortened and tight, leading to hip and/or back pain.
GET MORE OUT OF YOUR WORKOUTS
Working on your flexibility will help you gain a greater range of motion whilst exercising. For example, a squat with good technique will enable you to squat lower, which helps you build muscle, gain strength and burn more calories.
Stretching can be really beneficial for your mind-set. Unlike intense exercise, during stretching you’re able to focus on your breathing and how our body feels, helping you be more mindful, present and calm. Try a simple online yoga or Pilates class.
HOW TO STRETCH
As a general rule, stretching is most beneficial when you incorporate both static and dynamic stretching.
Static stretching is when you reach and hold a position for a set amount of time. It can help lengthen and counterbalance tight muscles. Your routine, however, should also include dynamic stretching, which combines movement, transitioning from one stretch to the next. Dynamic stretches should be carried out as part your warm up as they help raise your heart rate, elevating your body temperature and blood flow to the muscles.
- Flexibility exercises should be carried out at least two to three times per week
- Stretches should be held for 10-30 seconds, to the point of tightness or mild discomfort
- Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.
With all stretches, make sure you only stretch to the point of tightness or mild discomfort. Stretching to the point of the muscle being painful indicates you are stretching too intensely, which could lead to injury.
Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer
Trafford Leisure’s Active Living Manager and Personal Trainer, James Jackson, explores the importance of keeping active for long term health and how exercise and routine will help to keep you smiling in isolation.
Exercise can help keep your immune system functioning properly and support both your physical and mental wellbeing; especially pertinent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Being at home can be quite limiting in terms of space and lack of equipment. The good news is the best piece of kit is our own body – there’s so much you can do with it. Exercising at home can be simple, with options for most ages and abilities, from our fantastic online workouts, to taking a socially distanced walk. It’s more important than ever to find opportunities for physical activity even during lockdown.
Everyone exercises for their own personal reasons; these include weight loss, improving overall health (physical and mental), enjoyment, body image, as well as improving lifestyle and longevity of life.
But why is physical activity is so important for your body? Do people just do activity because they are told they should? Current government guidelines suggest we should be doing 150 minutes exercise a week, but do people actually understand the physical benefits they are getting from their workout?
Performing physical activity does so many things to the body; for one (and an important one) it regulates our energy balance, important in the control of weight management i.e. calories in versus calories out. Eating an excess of calories compared to the energy we expend doing daily tasks and physical activity will lead to weight gain. Weight gain can lead to an increase in body fat which can become dangerous when there becomes too much. A certain type of fat called visceral fat can surround vital organs preventing them from doing what they are required to do. This type of fat lies internally (not the fat you can grab around the stomach area). Visceral fat is more likely to raise your risk for serious medical issues such as an increase and blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and high cholesterol. By watching what you eat, how much you eat and doing regular activity body fat can be managed to help prevent these and other life limiting diseases.
Participating in regular physical activity also makes bones and muscles stronger. Every time we exercise we stimulate muscle receptors in the body, whether this be walking, running, lifting weights etc. The body constantly adapts to these stimuli therefore strengthening muscles, bones, improving balance and core stability, which in turn will decrease the likelihood of having a fall, along with reducing chances of developing osteoarthritis in later life.
Physical activity is a great way to improve mood and mental wellbeing. When we exercise, chemicals called endorphins are released into the body. These endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body. Other chemicals such as cortisol (stress hormone) are reduced when we exercise; this is why we see exercise as a great stress reliever.
Exercise really does:
- reduce your chances of developing long term medical conditions
- improves your mental health
- improves your ability for daily living tasks
- makes you stronger
- increases your chances of living a longer healthier life!
In these difficult times, it’s even more important to keep moving and keep active. Physical activity will help you get through the day, help you sleep better, create a routine for you and your family and help to keep you feeling positive. It’s so important to seek physical activity in your everyday locked-down life. These can include:
- cleaning your home
- dancing to music
- spend some time in your garden or open your window and take deep breaths
- going up and down stairs
- seated exercises and stretches
- going for a socially distanced walk, run or bike road
- sitting less – if you’ve been sitting down for an hour, just getting up or changing position can help.
- participating in our online classes
Active Living Manager / Personal Trainer
Here are a few tips to help you stay on track during the lockdown.
- HAVE A PLAN
Without a proper plan in place, it can be easy to put things off and say, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ Sometimes when this happens, we don’t end up doing it at all.
Decide how many days you can realistically workout per week. If you’re new to exercise you might aim for two or three days whereas if you’re used to exercise, you may aim for five days a week. Include at least one rest day, to ensure you recover from your workouts.
Decide what you’re going to do on each day and make a note of it. Check out the Trafford Leisure Live class timetable and draw up a plan. Here is an example:
- Monday – strengthen your core live class
- Tuesday – five km walk/run/cycle followed by a stretch
- Wednesday – rest
- Thursday – HIIT live class
- Friday – lower Body Home Workout
- Saturday – rest
- Sunday – upper body live class
Make sure your plan is something you can realistically commit to, so that you feel great as you tick off each workout you complete.
- SET A GOAL
A goal can really help boost your motivation. Plan your workouts with your personal goal in mind. Some examples could include:
- completing five full press ups
- running five kilometres in 30 minutes
- improve flexibility (e.g. be able to sit cross legged comfortably)
Whatever your goal, make sure it is achievable.
- RECORD YOUR PROGRESS
If you’ve set yourself a goal, record your progress as you work towards it. Seeing progress will spur you on to keep going.
- FIND YOUR OPTIMAL TIME
Some people are morning people, other people (myself included) just aren’t. Decide which time you are most motivated to train and plan your workouts accordingly. If you know the later you leave it, the less likely you are to do it, make sure you get that workout done in the morning!
- FOCUS ON HOW YOU FEEL AFTER THE WORKOUT
How many times have you really not felt like working out but then afterwards have said the words ‘I feel so much better now.’ Remember that feeling, and use the endorphin buzz to fuel your motivation.
- GET CHANGED FOR YOUR WORKOUT
If, like me, you’re spending most of your day in comfy clothes, it can be hard to separate working out from chilling out in your mind. Make a point of putting on some different clothes for your workout to get you in the right mood.
- DESIGNATE A SPACE
Having a designated space or room for your workouts can help with motivation. Once you enter that space, you know it’s time to exercise. Clear some space and have all the things ready for your workout, such as water. Try to remove anything that could act as a distraction.
- GET FRIENDS AND FAMILY INVOLVED
Working out with others often motivates us to push ourselves that little bit harder and workout for a little bit longer. Whilst we can’t train with our friends in person at the moment, why not try a video chat workout? Once you’ve set the day and time, it’ll be hard to say no. If you’re struggling to fit exercise in due to looking after the children, try out our Parents and Kids Fitness Fun sessions. These are short, fun sessions that everybody can get involved in.
- DON’T PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
There is a lot of messages on social media encouraging us to ‘try something new’ or ‘use this time wisely.’ This can lead us to think that we need to be doing EVERYTHING! Of course, it is important to stay active; however, this needs to be done in a way that is manageable to YOU. If you want to try out a new type of exercise, great. If you are more comfortable sticking to the classes that
you know and love, that’s OK too. Do what works for you and what makes you happy.
Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer
Resistance training is a form of exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance. During a resistance workout you move your limbs against resistance, usually provided by weights, dumbbells, bands, gravity and your own body weight. Some exercise machines can also be used for resistance training.
A ‘progressive overload’ is when you gradually increase the demands placed on the musculoskeletal system in order to make gains in muscle size, strength and endurance. The most obvious way to do this is to increase the weight used. However, a lot of us have limited equipment at the moment, so here are some other ways you can progress your resistance training:
Good technique is paramount. Not only does it help keep you safe, it helps you get the most from your workouts by ensuring you are using the correct muscles and that you aren’t using momentum to help lift the weight.
Increase time under tension
Time under tension refers to the amount of time a muscle is under stress during an exercise. For example, when performing a squat, rather than completing the exercise in two seconds (one second down and one second up), complete the squat in four seconds (three seconds down and one second up). This means your muscles have to work harder.
In a set of 10 squats, if you spend just one second going down and one second coming out of the squat, you’ll spend a total of 20 seconds completing the set. If you slow down, so the downwards phase of the squat lasts three seconds, each rep will take four seconds in total and will make your set last 40 seconds. Your muscles will have worked with the same weight, but for longer period of time.
Increase range of motion
To get the most out of your exercises, you want to get as much range of motion as your body safely allows. Usually you can feel an exercise is more challenging when you increase the range of motion. For example, in a press up, if you lower yourself to a point where your chest is three inches from the floor it’s going to be more challenging than if you only go to a point where your chest is six inches from the floor. See the video demonstration.
Increase difficulty of exercise
This can be done by changing your body’s positioning (e.g. elevating your feet on a chair or step for a press up). Pauses can also be added to help take any momentum out of a movement, making it more difficult. An example is shown in the video with a single arm row.
Increasing the amount of reps done with the same weight will also increase the demands placed on the muscles.
Type of sets
Instead of working one exercise at a time, multiple exercises can be worked together in order to place more stress on the muscles. Supersets are where we perform one exercise straight after another with no rest in between. You work the same muscle group in both exercises. For example, dumbbell chest press followed by a press up, or squats followed by a forward lunge.
Work each muscle more often
Instead of focusing workouts on specific muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders etc) and only working that muscle group once per week, try splitting workouts into upper body and lower body. This way, if you do four sessions per week, each muscle group is being worked twice, increasing the overall demand placed on it.
Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer
The current lockdown has, for most of us, temporarily changed how we operate day to day. Our working lives have changed, nights out have been put on hold, holidays have been cancelled and we aren’t able to just go out to visit our family and friends as we normally would. Whilst we may feel your freedom of choice has been taken from us and we’ve moved from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’ this is may be confusing and difficult for us all, however there may be some wellness positives that you can take from this time.
You may have found a bit more free time on your hands and this has encouraged you to learn new things. With a slower pace you may have discovered regular exercise habits, baking or a new language, it’s something that you can be proud of yourself for achieving (or at least having a go – I don’t think I’ll ever be a pro baker!)
In every situation there are silver linings and there’s a lot of love on the doorstep. Thursday night claps for key workers, checking in with neighbours and ‘hellos’ from across the street shows people looking out for one and other. The rise of a community spirit and people pulling together has got to be a good thing!
Socially distancing yourself from others, including your family and friends is tough! Thankfully we have loads of apps these days that help us to stay in touch and FaceTime-ing friends and friends can be the highlight of the day. We are seeing virtual fun from pub quizzes, zoom parties, and lunches to spend precious time with loved ones.
WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT
We’ve been brought back to basics a little bit. Some of the things that meant a lot to us before lockdown such as going out for meals and getting our hair done have been put on hold. We’ve been reminded that keeping ourselves and our families healthy and well is our priority and I think we’ve all become a bit more grateful for the important things like health, family, friendships and food on our plates.
FINDING ENJOYMENT IN THE LITTLE THINGS
We can appreciate the small things and gain pleasure from being able to sit the sun, family garden games or growing herbs on the window sill. We can enjoy the outdoors for exercise and you may be using this time to go and explore the local area, possibly finding footpaths or places that you didn’t know existed until now. The ultimate in mindfulness comes from observing the transition of bud to bloom, listening to birds or experiencing the wildlife around you.
LIFE HAS SLOWED DOWN
We’re only leaving the house for essential things. As a result we might have a bit more time to spend doing something relaxing. This might be reading a book, watching a film or going for a walk. For me, it’s definitely my evening walks in the local countryside, enjoying the warm weather and reduced traffic.
Some of our instructors (including me) have turned our living areas into makeshift gyms, offering live-streamed and on-demand workouts you can do right now in your own home and to help you stay connected with others. Some people are working out more! Exercise is helping people to cope with and manage coronavirus anxiety. A workout produces endorphins and other important neurotransmitters that increase our mood and we feel good when we workout and afterwards. You may been enjoying the positive feelings of exercising more and this is inspiring you to continue with your new good habits or try something you’ve never considered before.
All of this is super positive and as we know that staying active gives us so many health benefits both physically and mentally.
Looking into the future, which of these positives are you going to take with you into your everyday life? Will you set aside an hour or two per week to read that book? You might keep up the running and attend a weekly park run? Might you start attending that exercise class you’ve tried online a couple of times per week when it’s safe to reopen again? Whatever it is, there’s a bunch of positives and ways to move more.
Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer
Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer
Health and Wellbeing
In these very difficult times please do take some time to look after yourself, your health and your wellbeing.
I’m sure we all have people who we care for, look after and are concerned about but it is essential that you also care for yourself and get some support when you need.
Mental Health support for your wellbeing – Resilience Webinar with Rene Barrett: