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How to give yourself a health refresh as lockdown eases

Whether you’ve followed a strict schedule of Instagram live workouts or sat back and enjoyed being quiz master over Zoom, now that lockdown is easing, you may be wanting to adopt healthier habits as we enter into the “new normal”.

With our normally busy lives put on hold due to the global pandemic, lockdown has proved to be a sedentary period for many of us. Research by King’s College London in partnership with Ipsos MORI of over 2,200 participants in the UK has shown that 48% have gained weight during lockdown, while 28% said they have drunk more alcohol than they normally would. Fitbit data also suggests that British adults were 8% less active in March 2020 compared to January 2020.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if your healthy habits disappeared during lockdown. The uncertainty and stress of the past few months have been more than enough to knock anyone out of their usual routine. However, as the UK slowly starts to get back to some form of normality, and even summer holidays may be back on the agenda, you may want to give yourself a health reboot.

Here we have pulled together our top tips for overcoming the lockdown rut you may find yourself in.

Commit to an exercise challenge

If lockdown has given us anything, it is more time to spend at home; and surprisingly nearly 6 million Brits chose to use that spare time by exercising. The term “workout” saw a 239% increase in Google searches from April 2019 to April 2020 and explains why most gym equipment sold out within days of the gyms closing.

However, if home workouts didn’t form part of your lockdown routine, don’t worry, there is still time and help on-hand to get in shape for summer. While gyms remain closed until mid-July, many online communities are still offering virtual fitness challenges you can do from home.

If you are a fitness newbie, Couch to 5K is a great app to start with. The free app is designed to get you off the couch and running a 5K in just nine weeks. The schedule consists of 3 runs per week with a rest day in between. While you run, you can listen to motivational coaches such as Michael Jordan and Kelly Holmes to keep you moving.

Or if running is not your thing and you’d prefer some a little more relaxing, Yoga With Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga Challenge is a series of daily YouTube videos. They will help you build your strength, flexibility and breathing. All you need is a yoga mat and 30 minutes per day to practise.

Fitting in a 30-minute workout each morning can help you to fight off the lockdown fatigue and give you the endorphin rush you need to have a productive day. Lacking motivation to get started? Why not treat yourself to a fitness tracker? A recent study has found that fitness trackers can help to boost your motivation to work out (1).

Focus on your background activity

It’s all well and good burning 600 calories during a 40-minute HITT home workout, yet if you are sedentary for the rest of the day and eating and drinking too many calories, you may be consuming more than you are burning off. A drop in non-exercise related activity – such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to walk, standing instead of sitting can lead to unwanted weight gain if you are trying to shed a few pounds.

Instead of worrying about whether you will fit in your workout when you have returned to work, try, and focus on your daily activity and keep your total energy expenditure (TEE) up. If you are off to see friends for a socially distanced catch-up, why not take a walk together rather than just sit in the garden? Or if you aren’t comfortable with seeing people just yet, take that walk by yourself and listen to your favourite music or podcast, the time will fly by if you have something to focus on while getting your steps in.

Regulate your sleeping pattern

Staying up until the early hours to binge-watch your favourite Netflix thriller every night may sound like a good idea, but over a prolonged period, lack of good quality sleep can have a negative impact on your overall health and wellbeing. After several sleepless nights, your brain can start to fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions the next day. Lack of sleep can even impact dietary choices, making us much more likely to reach for the carbs and sugar than when we’ve had our full 7-8 hours of shut-eye.

If you have been struggling to sleep during lockdown and are starting back at work soon, try getting yourself back into a regular sleeping pattern with our simple tips:

  • Set a daily alarm for both waking up and going to sleep – you should be aiming for at least 8 hours each night.
  • Try and relax with a warm bath, gentle yoga exercises, listening to relaxation music or by reading a book.
  • Turn off your electronic devices an hour before bed to give your brain time to wind down. Light from your smartphone, tablet and laptop may have a negative impact on sleep.

Eating a balanced diet that contains fresh fruit, veg, whole grains and foods rich in vitamin B such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy can also help regulate your sleep cycles, helping you feel energized and refreshed.

Ditch your evening glass of wine

As local pubs and bars across the country were forced the close their doors in March, off-license alcohol sales saw a 31.4% rise. It is safe to say most have us have enjoyed reaching for that 6 pm glass of wine during lockdown. However, overdoing it every night of the week can dehydrate your body and leave you feeling unproductive and tired the next day.

With the pubs re-opening this weekend, try to re-set your relationship with alcohol and only drink when you are going out to socialise in a restaurant or bar. Leaving alcohol off your weekly shopping list may also help and if you do give in to temptation in the wine and beer aisle of your local supermarket, why not opt for a lower or zero alcohol beers or wine?

Lockdown affected many of us in different ways, whether it was overcoming challenges such as the new work-school-home life balance, finding new ways to stay fit and healthy, or getting enough sleep. One thing is for certain, looking after our health has never been more important.

One of the best ways to understand your current health status and establish your baseline blood levels before you give yourself a health refresh is with a simple at-home blood test. Our Health and Lifestyle Blood Test is perfect if you want an overall health check. It measures important markers for liver, kidney, and heart health as well as tests for inflammation, iron and key vitamins for energy and optimal health.

Take this test today and re-test in a couple of months to see how your post-lockdown lifestyle has affected your overall health.