With many NSW residents enduring their second week of COVID-19 lockdown, the Heart Foundation is issuing a reminder about the importance of physical activity to our heart health and mental wellbeing.
Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for heart disease, which continues to be the single leading cause of death in Australia. Around 50 Australians die every day from heart disease.
Yet in NSW last year, 34.1% of men and 42.3% of women did not do enough exercise to keep them healthy, according to new NSW Health data.
“COVID-19 continues to disrupt almost every aspect of Australians’ lives, including our physical activity routines – like going to the gym, playing team sports or even walking with a group of friends,” said Heart Foundation Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton.
“If you’re at home for long periods, there might be a temptation to spend more time on the couch, but we would encourage Sydneysiders and regional NSW residents affected by the lockdown to find ways to stay fit, active and heart-healthy.
“Regular exercise reaps not only many physical benefits, but it’s also been proven to help our state of mind – which is so important in these challenging times.
“Being active improves self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Active people have a reduced risk of becoming depressed, and staying active helps people who are depressed recover.”
Living in a small space such as an apartment should not put people off exercising at home, Professor Shilton added.
“There are plenty of movements and positions you can do in a small space to get a good workout. You only need enough room to be able to step forward and back and left to right and drop down into a plank or push-up position,” he said.
“It’s also not true that you need professional gym equipment to get a good workout. To get some extra resistance to work muscles, you can use tinned beans instead of dumbbells or kettlebells or other common household items like books.”
Here are the Heart Foundation’s tips and tricks for staying active during a lockdown:
Any physical activity is better than none
“Try to move in as many ways as you can throughout the day,” Professor Shilton said.
Build up more than 30 minutes a day
The Australian guideline for adults is to build up more than 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity. “This is about the equivalent of a brisk walk – enough to make you puff a little, but still be able to conduct a conversation,” he said. “Aim for 30 minutes a day or more.”
Move about while at home
If you’re lucky enough to have an exercise bike, use it!
Develop your own short exercise routine and do it several times a day (adding up to at least 30 minutes).
Practise Tai Chi, dance or other ways to connect with your culture (or another culture) in an active way via You Tube videos.
Declutter and give away items to charity.
Paint a room or restore a tired piece of furniture.
If you can access an activity tracker, watch your steps. Aim for 10,000 a day and maybe introduce a challenge with friends and family members (most steps/active minutes).
Muscle-strengthening exercises are also recommended on at least two days each week. Try:
Water bottle weight workout – fill a water bottle, milk carton or similar with water and do some light weights with it.
Do some resistance exercises against a wall or chair.