How to keep active during lockdown

A picture of someonest lower legs walking along a path, next to grass, with trainers on.

Guest post by Sharon Newson

Hello – my name is Sharon Newson and I am a specialist personal trainer (BigPictureLiving.co.uk) and a Year Two PhD student at Huddersfield University (sharon.newson@hud.ac.uk), researching the impact of living with PCOS in relation to physical health, emotional wellbeing, and exercise.  

I was diagnosed with PCOS thirty years ago, although I had symptoms for eight years before that. I have experienced a variety of treatments to combat my two main issues: excess facial & body hair, and a total absence of periods.  After losing 10st in weight over two years (by getting to the root of why I was emotionally eating, and through exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet) I qualified to become a specialist personal trainer working alongside people living with a variety of health conditions.  

During this time of learning a new structure and routine to our days, dealing with added anxiety, social isolation and distancing, on top of all our usual PCOS issues, the thought of exercising or even just staying active can be just one thing too much.  The result? We become sedentary, put on weight, lose muscle tone, joints get stiffer – everyday tasks become harder, we are less able to fight off infection, and our mental health slips. Exercise and physical activity don’t have to be boring or painful. It doesn’t have to be for long either – even just a few minutes of getting your heart beating a bit faster can result in health benefits.

In this article I have included some simple exercises to help with posture, especially if you find yourself working from home and hunched over a laptop for hours on end.  I have also included a few fun activities to help you, and anyone you’re at home with, to keep moving and get that heart rate raised a bit. Finally, I have included links to three 20-min exercise videos if you’re after something a little more structured.  As with any exercise, please listen to your body. Go steady to start with, particularly if you have a health condition other than PCOS and be safe and responsible. If you have any worries, please speak with a healthcare professional.

Working from home – posture

Even if you are an active person for at least 30 mins a day, sitting for long periods of time will cause tension and stiffness in your joints.  Moving about and changing position every 60-90 minutes will help to reduce this tension and boost your circulation, helping you to stay more alert.  Here are a few simple movements you can do each day, either one after the other, or individually as you have time and / or need. They are designed to ease aches & tensions and help towards good posture. 

Active rest – laying down with the back of your head (not neck) supported on a towel that is 1-2” thick.  Bend your knees up, feet flat on the floor and roughly hip distance apart. Rest your hands either across your chest or on the lower part of your stomach.  Focus on breathing steadily, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Relax your back and shoulders and let your mind drift away somewhere nice as you feel your muscles release their tension.  Try & stay relaxed in this position for at least 5 mins before slowly sitting up.

Head turns – sitting on the floor or on an upright chair, focus on feeling your ‘sitting bones’ in your bottom and make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Relax your shoulders down and pull them backwards slightly.  Slowly turn your head to one side, making sure that both shoulders stay back and down, not narrowed in towards your chest. Be aware not to tilt your chin down – keep your eyes on the horizon. Hold for a few seconds, then gently return to face front, and repeat on the opposite side.  Rpt 5 times each side.

Head tilts – standing upright with your hands resting at the side of your thighs (not in front of your thighs), relax your shoulders back and down.  Breathing normally, slowly tilt your right ear down to your right shoulder, making sure that your left shoulder doesn’t lift. You should feel this stretch down the side of your neck.  Be aware not to rotate your head – keep looking forwards, not down to the floor or up to the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds before slowly returning to your starting position. Recheck your shoulder position, then repeat on the other side.  Repeat 5 times each side.

Chest stretch – standing upright between a door frame, place your forearms on each side of the door frame with your upper arms parallel with the floor, palms flat on the frame.  Gently lean through the doorway, keeping your chest lifted, pushing your shoulders backwards, squeezing your shoulder blades together. You should feel the stretch across the upper part of your chest.  If you are aware of any shoulder issues, or have any other concerns, please check with a suitably qualified healthcare professional or physiotherapist.

Fun activities

Treasure hunt walk – at the time of writing, we are still allowed outside for one walk a day, so make it fun!!  Before you set off, write out a list of 5-10 items to collect or photograph and then tick them off as you walk.  You could have random things or stick to a theme – for example types of flowers, trees, or cars. I have a thing for car wheel trims, so I count the different ‘spokes’ and look for the different patterns (but then again I am a bit weird!!)

Alphabet shuttle runs – print off or write the 26 letters of our alphabet so they fit onto an A4 sheet and cut them up into individual letters.  Place face down in a pile at one end of the room or garden. Starting from the opposite end of the room / garden, run (or brisk walk) to the pile, pick up TWO letters from the pile – without looking – and run back to the start. Keep running back and forth, taking only two unseen letters at a time, until you have been able to make these words: VERITY; PCOS; FUN; BAG.  If you’re feeling competitive, you can time how long it takes you and note any improvements. Feel free to make your own list of words up – bearing in mind that you only have one of each letter!

Garden pot lunges – for those of you with green fingers… cut out of a magazine (or print pictures) images of pot plants.  Have a pile of 10-16 images on the floor in front of you. The idea is that you squat down and pick up one image, and then take three steps to one side and either squat down and place it on the floor or reach up and place it on a shelf or bookcase.  Return to your pile of pot plants and repeat the activity to the opposite side. You can make a whole range of different types of ‘gardens’ at each side. You could also add fences, hedges, trees… your only limit is your imagination! An alternative is to build up a safari park with pictures of animals etc. 

Resources

Each of these three videos were produced by Prof Rachel Batterham (UCLH), and endorsed by the following organisations:

Obesity Empowerment Network (OEN), World Obesity, Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH), European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), & the British Obesity & Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS).  They are shared here with permission.

Short exercise video for active adults: https://youtu.be/S6dD0A7M8wY

Short exercise video for sedentary / older adults: https://youtu.be/8Frf1EjnZ_Y

Short exercise video for children & young people: https://youtu.be/U9W9RJpQ7cY

Why not have a go yourself and if you’re feeling up to it share it with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!