In: Exercises, Health, Nutrition

8 fit and healthy ways to spend isolation

Now that you’re following official guidance on limiting social interaction, what can you do to ensure you’re fitter and healthier at the end of it than you are now without spending any money?

1. Use your brain

Our brains are used to being stimulated through work, social interaction, learning, etc.  Don’t neglect it with continuous binge-watching of your favourite shows on Netflix or endlessly scrolling through social media waiting for something interesting to happen to someone else.

Social isolation

Use the time you have to read those books gathering dust on the shelf.  Learn a language or a musical instrument.  Show some love to that hobby which used to be so important to you when you had more time.  There is a plethora of online education sources available to all of us and much of it is free.

Keeping our brains active is important for mental wellbeing which in turn impacts our ability to be fully functioning individuals, making us more likely to eat well and exercise.

2. Talk to people

Humans are (generally) social animals.  We hear all the time about the issues of loneliness and its impact on wellbeing, so don’t let yourself, or your loved ones, fall into it.

When was the last time you spoke to your family?  I mean really spoke to them?  How many of your closest non-virtual friends have you been in contact with recently?

I read an article about one family which had been in isolation for weeks and whilst the first few days being cooped up together were “challenging”, they soon found ways of communicating and sharing their lives more openly.  The upshot?  They are now behaving like, well, a family.

Whether it’s your family, a community or social support group, make social interaction a positive thing.  And be grateful for it, as being grateful has been shown to increase happiness, relieve depressive symptoms and help you focus on the positive things generally.

3. Drink more

How much water are your drinking each day?

Most people would benefit from drinking 2-3 litres of water a day (that’s 3.5-5.3 pints).  If you want a more accurate estimate, then your daily intake in litres should be:

Weight in Kgs x 0.032 or weight in Lbs x 0.015

then add 1 litre for every hour of moderate to hard exercise.

If that seems like a lot of water, then build up slowly over the next two weeks.  Yes, you’ll pee more, but you’ll also be giving your body more of what it needs.  Just 3% dehydration and you brain starts slowing down – that’s not going to help you to read books on the Spanish guitar, is it?

And whilst we’re talking about drinking more, you could also use the time to drink less coffee and alcohol.  As I explained in a recent blog, both caffeine and alcohol negatively impact your immune system – not what you want when you’re trying to avoid a virus.

4. Plan your future

There are times in life when we stop and take stock of where we are and where we want to be.  Often, it’s New Year’s Eve or a significant birthday.  Make your time in isolation another opportunity to consider your future.

Perhaps you are not happy with work (The Change Agent can help you here), your finances, a relationship, your fitness (give us a call!) – whatever it is, spend some time planning what you’re going to do about it.

Feeling unsatisfied with your lot is a source of underlying stress, albeit perhaps at a low level.  This makes it harder to be the best version of you at work, rest and play, so do something about it.  Even something as simple as writing it down will stimulate your brain to find solutions.

So, write it down, update your CV, review that pile of credit card bills to see what you’ve been sending your money on, revisit your New Year’s Eve resolutions and get a vision for where you are heading in life.  Your future self will thank you for it.

5. Vary your diet

One of the best ways to improve our general wellbeing is by having a nutrient-rich diet.  From my experience, people have very little issue getting the calories they need, but either they’re from nutrient-light processed food, or they eat a narrow range of foods that they are missing out on a full range of nutrients.

Use your time at home to try new foods and recipes.  Yes, the supermarkets have run out of pasta and tinned tomatoes but on the basis of my shopping trip yesterday, the fresh produce shelves were the most well-stocked, so start there.

If you don’t think this is an issue for you, write down the 10 foods you eat the most.  Now plan your meals without using those foods.  If that’s easy for you to do, then fantastic.  If that was a challenge, then the chances are you’re too heavily reliant on a small range of foods to be getting a balance of nutrients.

6. Stretch

If you find yourself sitting around more than usual whilst in isolation, then now is the time to find your inner yogi.  If yoga really isn’t your thing, then try a stretching programme.  You’ll be able to find videos online for both.

Lack of movement, multiple stressors and more tension (even that related to being confined in a small space with loved ones, particularly if you’ve not started number 2 above) all have negative effects on our posture.  Stretching programmes can help reverse any issues, are low impact and can be done regularly without causing recovery issues.  You can make this a household activity to improve relations.

If you improve your posture, you are also likely to improve your confidence, which could help with planning your future.  You’ll also clear your head of noise, making it easier to think and learn.

It really is the gift which keeps giving.

7. Exercise anywhere

At the time of writing, the guidelines in the UK allow us to exercise outside, so long as we keep a sensible distance from other people.  Walking, running, even swimming, are therefore all valid forms of exercise.

But if you want something that you can do at home with no gym equipment, there are plenty of options to choose from.  Aside from 1980s style Jane Fonda aerobic videos on YouTube, you can pull together a worthwhile bodyweight circuit following these principles whilst remembering the most important thing is not to do yourself any harm:

  • Select eight exercises, working each part of your body.
  • Aim for 10-20 repetitions of each exercise before moving to the next.
  • Control your movements; don’t bounce in and out of the extreme positions.
  • Rest between exercises only if you need to. Remember that you’re going to be working hard so your breathing rate will rise.
  • Rest for 2 minutes at the end of each circuit.
  • Aim to go through your circuit 3-5 times.

Bodyweight exercises (and some variations in parenthesis) include:

  • Squats (box, split leg, Bulgarian, sissy)
  • Lunges (walking, static, drop, reverse)
  • Calf raises (standing, crouching, single leg)
  • Hip hinge (Romanian deadlifts, toe touch)
  • Planks (single leg, single arm, side, shoulder tap)
  • Crunches (cyclist, twisting)
  • Push ups (horizontal, inclined, single arm, clap, alternate sides)
  • Bicep curls (holding loaded bags for resistance, single arm)
  • Shoulder raises (sideways, front)
  • Handstand press (against a wall)
  • Triceps dips (on a stable chair)

Then of course, there are more energetic exercises such as burpees, star jumps and squat jumps.  Just make sure your environment is safe to jump around, that any additional resistance you’re using is secure and any props (e.g. chairs for dips) are not going to move from under you.

If all that sounds too much like hard work, then we can help design you something.  We also have hundreds of free exercise videos to give you more inspiration.

8. E-de-clutter

How full is your email inbox?  How many updates do you get on social media?

Over the last 20 years, stress levels have increased many more times than our ability to deal with stress has evolved.  A significant part of that is down to social media and the ease of access that people have to us, 24/7.  But it’s not just that people want to contact us; FOMO is real and keeps us hooked into staying connected to pages which really provide little positive value.

Do yourself a favour and spend some time clearing out old emails, dealing with what needs to be dealt with and cutting down the social media feeds you see.  You’ll have more head space and more time to follow the other ideas above.

Final thoughts

Remember, we could be in this for the long haul.  Whatever you start doing, make sure you see it through.  You’ll come out the other side of this coronavirus pandemic fit, stronger and ready to take on the world.

Are you ready to thrive?