By Ben Andrews, founder of Empower You, which works with communities to support active lifestyles by disabled people.
Being active is important for both physical and mental health. Getting moving boosts energy, improves sleep and increases feelings of positivity.
But what happens if we can’t move as much as we usually do? What do we do then?
Whether it’s due to a lifestyle change, illness or lockdown, it’s important for everyone to keep active. Not only for immediate health and wellbeing benefits, but to protect our health for the future and to reduce pressure on the NHS – which is vitally important right now.
Why keep moving?
There are benefits to keeping active for everyone.
In the short term moving more keeps our muscles strong and supple, and helps us manage a healthy weight. Long term it reduces the risk of major illnesses such as stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Being active is also hugely important for our mental health, which is particularly important right now. Anything that gets your heart pumping and muscles moving will encourage the production of endorphins, commonly known as the brain’s ‘happy hormone’.
Moving more also acts as a great stress reliever, by giving you some personal time to focus on ‘being in the moment.’ Lots of studies have shown being active helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
To really feel the benefits of moving we should do some form of physical activity everyday – 30 minutes for adults and 60 for kids. Throughout the week this should be a mix of cardio – which raises your heartbeat, makes you feel warmer and gets you breathing more quickly, mixed with strength and balance – working the major muscle groups whilst helping protect against trips, falls and breaks.
If you don’t feel like, or can’t fit it round your lifestyle, you don’t need to do those minutes all at once – you can split them up into blocks of whatever times work for you.
Fitness for all
There are lots of ways you, and those in your household, can introduce more movement into your day. We just need to make sure the type and intensity of each activity is appropriate for whatever levels of fitness and mobility you have.
Why not try an online fitness class? Or make day to day jobs slightly more difficult, such as dancing while you wash up or doing calf raises whilst you dust. Even simple things like moving the kettle so you have further to reach when you make a cuppa counts. It doesn’t matter how you interpret ‘moving more’, as long as you challenge yourself!
It’s important to remember that when it comes to activity and movement, ‘one size’ doesn’t fit all – whether that’s down to personal preferences, physical differences, or simply how you feel on the day. When looking for a way to challenge your body, think about what your needs are (this could be different every day).
Unfortunately, many online classes tend to take a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. This can pose a problem if you have different needs, goals or levels of fitness than the class caters for.
The good news is, there are ways that everyone can follow the same routine together – by simply providing variations for the movements included in the class.
I work with groups of disabled people and support them to access fitness and activity alongside non-disabled people, taking an inclusive approach – and this is no different, it’s just a case of deciding which variation of the movement suits you best.
I’ve created a video, which you can find here. It’s a full body class with something to suit everyone.
Depending on how you’re feeling on the day you can do whichever variation of movement you want – standing, supported, sitting or assisted by someone else. Don’t worry if you swap and change throughout the session, or you can do different versions on different days depending on how you’re feeling, it’s whatever works for you.
The great thing about having four variations of the same movement is that while one of you is marching on the spot, another can be doing the supported version by holding onto a chair. This means that you can get active together – which is much more fun, sociable and will help us stay active long-term.
It will enable you to tailor the routine to suit you. For example, you may feel more comfortable choosing the seated movements while working the legs muscles but feel confident standing when tackling the arm movements.
I’ve also included variations for people who have low levels of mobility – through self-assisted and passive assisted exercise which will involve your limb being moved by something like a hand towel or by somebody you are with such as family member, friend or carer. This way you will still benefit from the same movements working the same muscle groups and target areas.
The class allows people to work at their own level, it can be as intense as you want to make it. With that being said, it’s important to listen to your body and what you need on each day. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself if you’re feeling good, but don’t overdo it if it’s simply not a good day for you.
While changes in our lifestyle and habits can have an effect on how we move and get active, it’s important to remember the importance of looking after ourselves and finding out what works for you, now.
At a time of physical distancing, this is truly something that we can all be part of together.
You can find the 30 minute class on YouTube here.
We love to see how you #KeepGMMoving – why not check out what other people are doing on the @GMMoving and @ThatCountsGM social media channels? And if you’re doing something inspiring, why not let us know!
Ben would love to hear what you think of the workout as well as offer any support of advice. You can reach Ben on Twitter @BenAndrewsBE and @EmpowerYou_UP or [email protected].
For more information about how to move more while managing a health condition, go to https://weareundefeatable.co.uk/.
The campaign aims to inspire, reassure and support people to be active by showing people living with a variety of conditions – both visible and invisible – on their own journeys to being active.