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Staying fit when you’re socially distancing


A key difference between self-isolating and socially distancing is that you can still get out of the house and get some fresh air and exercise while you’re socially distancing. What’s important is to be as far away from other people as possible. Having taken a walk along the river today, I’ve found that’s pretty easy as most of the usual people have disappeared – even the dog walkers. In these volatile times, advice may change rapidly. At the moment though, getting outside and moving are to be recommended for both physical and mental health.

For many, staying away from people altogether could be the right solution. If you or your relatives feel safer staying at home, then it’s still important to try to look after your health.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists have offered some advice on staying well while social distancing by staying at home. Occupational therapists are closely involved on a day-to-day basis in assessing homes and making recommendations for making life easier for those with mobility issues, so they have a great deal of experience to share. The tips apply equally well to those who feel well but are self-isolating because of suspected COVID-19 at home.

Based on their suggestions we also recommend that we should:

  • Establish a routine for every day that provides a structure for life at home. This will be particularly important for those who aren’t used to being at home all day. Without the need to go out and get stuff done could find themselves sitting around in their PJs feeling lost. Many retired people will have some sort of routine, but they will have to find replacements for social activities.
  • Set tasks and goals for each day. Most of us have to-do lists that haven’t moved for a while. How about looking through cupboards and wardrobes for potential charity donations? Many of the charities are going to be suffering a terrible loss in shop income during this time, and will greatly welcome donations in the future.
  • Recognise what gets you or your parent down and see if you can work to avoid the triggers. For example, if you have any safe outside space, spend time there whenever you can, on the basis that light provides vitamin D which supports your physical and mental health, and the spring is a great time to watch nature start to unfold.
  • Live well. It’s very tempting to stock up on treats for a difficult time, but it’s wise to balance those with a diet that will maintain your immune system and strength. So fruit and vegetables as well as water are still the order of the day. Maybe if you can get hold of fresh veg you could make and freeze batches of soup that you could share with older family.
  • Move. Take breaks from sitting, even if you’re working at a desk at home. There are exercises you can do at home to help you maintain or improve your fitness. Many fitness trainers are putting routines on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or their own sites in an effort to help others. The Move it or Lose it group, for example, have put together a downloadable pack suggesting exercises to do around the home.
  • Try to keep a good sleep routine. It’s really difficult if you wake in the night not to lie worrying about what the future holds for you and your family. Sleep experts recommend getting up if you’re awake for more than 10 minutes, and not going back to bed until you’re ready to go back to sleep.

At the time of writing (18 March) the National Trust, Royal Horticultural Society and RSPB have said their estates, gardens and reserves remain open for people to enjoy the outside world. The National Trust has closed its cafes and shops though.

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