With the UK knee-deep into a second nationwide coronavirus lockdown, there is a growing concern about how isolation affects mental and physical health.
The Mental Health Foundation report there are “increasing calls to understand the impacts of this lockdown, and of subsequent school closures, on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.”
Of course, the magnitude of impact will depend on the circumstances and situation of the individual, in particularly minors. Health experts say, negative effects are determined by vulnerability factors such as age, educational status, pre-existing mental health condition, financial stability and the perceived fear of infection.
For example, the Heart Foundation reports that people with heart disease may develop complications if you get Covid-19. Patients with underlying health conditions increase stress for individuals and their families.
Health advice offered by lead Physician at Bupa, Dr Paula Falconer includes strategies to look after your health including eating well and going for a long walk during lockdown.
Walking actually has multiple health benefits. It is certainly an exercise routine that is easily accomplished during lockdown. And you never know, it may inspire you to lead a healthier lifestyle living forward as well.
Self-care and self-care activities are an issue health officials are keen to stress during lockdown. During the first lockdown 69% of UK adults said the pandemic was causing them stress.
General concerns are worries about the future of jobs and general wellbeing. It is thought that mental health cases in the UK have increased by 8.1% on average.
Self-care activities helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Walking is a moderately light exercise which just about anyone can do. And if you really want to ramp up your fitness levels try brisk walking or even fitness walking.
By incorporating self-care activities like walking into a regular routine during lockdown, you give your body, mind and soul a much needed boost. As a result, you restore balance and order inside and feel much better to boot.
Do you want to know why?
There has been a mountain of research in recent years explaining the physiological, psychological and emotional benefits of walking. But you don’t have to read all that, we’ll sum it up below.
What Does Walking Do For Your Body And Mind?
Walking, especially brisk walking or fitness walking makes you breathe deeper. This makes your lungs work harder so that you take in more oxygen.
Oxygen is not only good for staying alive, but it also supports and improves your immune system. Your body needs oxygen to clear waste from the bloodstream and also for the cells to build molecular defence barriers that kill harmful bacteria and viruses – like Covid-19.
It is well-known that victims of coronavirus typically have an underlying health condition, or a compromised immune system. If your immune system is not able to create antibodies, you are more at risk of dying from coronavirus.
So the body needs oxygen. Moreover, oxygen is distributed to your blood. Walking improves your blood circulation and carries oxygen to your muscles which learn to use energy more efficiently.
This makes your body function better both physically and physiologically. More oxygen in the brain also helps your cognitive function more effective as well – a crucial primer for sound mental health.
Why You Should Walk During Lockdown
Walking has numerous benefits for your mental and physical health. In turn, how you feel in body and mind affects how you behave to yourself and towards others.
Listed below are 22 reasons to walk during lockdown. They are broken into categories that outline general health benefits, physical benefits and psychological benefits.
General Health Benefits
1. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Research shows that walking is excellent for improving the cardiovascular system. Even moderate exercise such as a casual walk during lockdown will help to lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This makes your heart stronger and wards off the risk of heart disease.
2. Improves Blood Circulation
Exercise helps blood to flow more efficiently because oxygen makes blood vessels dilate. One study found that women that walked for 30-minutes a day reduced the risk of stroke by 20% and by 40% if they picked up the pace. Brisk walking during lockdown could prove to be a life-changing experience that delivers a longer life.
3. Help Weight Loss
Sitting at home playing computer games and eating biscuits will do nothing for your figure. Well, it will give you love handles. If you are already carry a load, brisk walking during lockdown is an ideal solution to start a fitness routine that will help your immune system to stay healthy.
4. Improves Back Pain
Walking largely involves moving your hips, buttocks and lower back. This area of the body is often the most likely cause of aches, pains and stiffness due to blocked energy. Back pain can restrict movement and disrupt sleep. Regular walking during lockdown will help to relieve blockages and ease aches and pains in your back.
5. Makes Your Bones Stronger
Once you hit 30 years of age, your bone mass has peaked. From there, it’s a steady decline and your bones gradually begin to weaken. Without regular exercise, you are more likely to develop conditions such as osteoporosis. This condition will mean you are more likely to suffer fractures and has also been linked with spiralling mental health.
6. Lowers Risk of Cancer
Numerous studies have shown that the health benefits of walking has biological effects that enable individuals to avoid certain types of cancer. The American Cancer Society has shown that walking can help reduce the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.
7. Walking Prevents Diabetes
UK health experts warn that immobility and lack of exercise can lead to diabetes. Extensive studies have found that light to moderate exercise for just 20 minutes a day, reduced the risk of diabetes by 30%. When you walk, fatty acids are burned to provide fuel for the body, and by getting rid of fatty acids you are less likely to contract diabetes.
8. Strengthens Muscles
If you’ve always dreamed of having bulging biceps and shapely legs, taking up walking during lockdown is a good way to start. Fitness walking is the best option because it makes you pump your arms and legs faster and extends your range of motion thereby shifting weight to your muscles rather than your joints.
9. Supports Your Joints
Walking is a low-impact exercise so does not apply pressure or force on your joints like other sports and fitness routines. What’s more, cartilages do not ordinarily receive sufficient amounts of blood flow they need for nutritional purposes. If you are not exercising, your joints are not properly lubricated which leads to stiffness, pain and potentially arthritis.
10. Improves Your Immune System
We touched on how walking during lockdown can help improve your immune system above. However, this point is extra worthy of a mention right now and deserves a heading of its own. Researchers have shown that people who walk daily between 30 and 45 minutes have fewer sick days and quicker recovery times. The conclusion was that healthy people create more antibodies that kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Because coronavirus is a new disease, your body will take longer to neutralise and eliminate the threat. It can take 2 weeks for people to recover from mild cases and up to 8 weeks for people that have a weaker immune system.
11. Better Balance and Coordination
Balance and coordination gradually decline as we age. This can be due to a number of reasons including declining eye-sighting, arthritis and brittle bones. Walking has shown to improve bone strength which eliminates the latter two issues that can cause the elderly to topple over.
12. Reduce Stress
Lockdown will naturally invite stress so it makes sense to engage in activities that help to reduce stress. Studies show that walking exercises produce endorphins – feel-good chemicals produced by the brain – and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol. Whilst cortisol can help you in a moment of stress, when you invite stress into your head, it eventually takes its toll on your body by pumping toxic chemicals your natural drainage system is not able to wash away. Chronic stress leads to all manner of illnesses. To relieve stress and prevent illness, it is critical that you either go for a walk during lockdown or engage in some kind of other physical activity.
13. Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Stress is also a contributing factor to anxiety and depression. Isolation will expedite underlying feelings – and most people suffer from depression and anxiety without even realising it. The World Health Organisation has pronounced depression as a pandemic, calling it the “leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.”
14. Boost Mood
Those endorphins we mentioned earlier also boost your mood. They are akin to nature’s very own wonder drug in the brain and have been compared with painkilling opiates. In fact, the word endorphin is a combination of “endogenous”, meaning within the body, and “morphine”.
15. Improves Self-Esteem
Fitness walking gives you more energy, makes you look better, feel better and function better. All of these factors combined improve your self-esteem. If you have conquered the “mother of all hills” as part of your fitness training, you can also add accomplishment to the list of confidence boosting ways walking boost your self-esteem.
16. Enhances Sleep
Stressing about coronavirus, your health and your future will keep you awake at night. Moreover, the less sleep you get the weaker you immune system is (see above). The Sleep Foundation recommend adults should get at least 7 hours sleep a night and teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours. If you or any of your family members are not getting enough zzz’s, go for a daily walk during the lockdown and promote healthy sleeping patterns.
17. Reduces Risk of Mental Decline
A study performed by the University of California, San Francisco, found that women aged 65 who walked 2.5 miles a day slowed down the decline of age-related memory by 17 per cent. The study concluded that “neuroprotective lifestyles” such as walking help to improve cognitive function which helps to keep an ageing brain alert.
18. Lowers Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that walking and other light forms of exercise can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. People that exercise at least three times are 38% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
19. Improve Your Outlook
A positive mindset comes from a sense of accomplishment and how you feel about yourself. Staying indoors will not accomplish much, so why not go for a walk during the lockdown and improve your outlook on yourself and the entire situation of coronavirus. Knowing you have a strong immune system should make you feel more confident about surviving Covid-19 should you contract the illness.
20. There are no Barriers
Walking is an easy exercise to adopt. Under normal circumstances you would probably be walking every day anyway so walking during the lockdown is a transition that shouldn’t present you with any barriers. If possible, head into the great outdoors and let nature work its magic. There are also lots of fun things you can do with kids on a nature walk as well.
21. Leads to a Longer Life
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the average walking speed is a consistent predictor of life expectancy across age, race and height categories. The study found that people that walk quickly and regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35% more likely to live longer – by around 7 or 8 years.
22. Discounted Merchandise
Did you know you can convert your steps into digital currency which is valid at hundreds of online stores through the Sweatcoin app. All you have to do is download the sweat coin app onto your mobile phone and activate your account. The built-in pedometer counts your steps each day and converts them into SWC – the digital currency we call sweatcoin. On the app, you will also find a gateway to an exclusive online store with hundreds of attractive discounts. Once you have enough SWC’s all you have to do is click on the offer you want to take advantage of, cash in your sweatcoins as part exchange and pay the remainder from your bank account. It’s simple and very rewarding.