In case you hadn’t heard, the UK is in lockdown. In practical terms that means people are being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible with the exception of essential journeys, namely to buy groceries or to attend work if you are still able to do so. The usual outlets for exercise and recreation are closed, but the official recommendation is to stay as active as possible. So what does that mean for our cardiovascular health?
Regardless of the current lockdown situation, it is well acknowledged that regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind. According to the World Health Organisation, it can reduce high blood pressure, help manage weight, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. It also improves bone and muscle strength and increases balance, flexibility, and fitness. For older people, activities that improve balance can help to prevent falls and injuries. Investing time in physical activity will also improve your mental health and can reduce the risk of depression and cognitive decline, and delay the onset of dementia as well as improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
To allow for physical activity the government has sanctioned that people can go outside for a run, walk or cycle once a day. For the exercise to be effective and promote cardiac health it must raise your heart rate and make you feel out of breath. So, if you were fit and healthy before the lockdown but used a gym you will need to make sure you push yourself hard enough to achieve the desired effect.
Whilst the benefits of going to the gym are clear to see, there are many ways to maintain a similar fitness regime without having to compromise too much, with the added bonus of not needing to brush your hair, find clean shorts or lift heavier weights than usual because the really built guy is looking over. You’re also saving money, so it isn’t all doom and gloom.
Besides taking to the streets or parks to have a run, fast walk or cycle there are many other ways to maintain good cardiovascular health without leaving your property. There are a plethora of free exercise videos online, YouTube, in particular, has something for everyone from a five-minute abs workout to an hour-long HIIT session. Use this opportunity to move out of your comfort zone whilst no one else is watching. If you have always secretly wanted to try out Zumba then this is your moment. It is also a great opportunity to increase your flexibility as many men neglect that side of their fitness which can often lead to joint damage and enforced time off.
Use your stairs! By raising your heart rate, stair climbing helps protect against high blood pressure, weight gain and clogged arteries. As well as cardiovascular health, it can also promote bone health, build muscles, and improve muscle tone. Investing in some basic home gym equipment is a great idea, however, not everyone has the space or budget to accommodate that. In the absence of a custom-built home gym, you can look for items around the house that weigh more than a few pounds but are easy to hold on to. Use the adapted elements as weights by doing curls or squats. You can also try using furniture as exercise equipment; try box squats or step-ups on chairs. For strength building and stamina do bodyweight exercises such as planks, push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks. If you are locked down with family members use the exercise periods as ‘you’ time. As much as we love our offspring, having an hour break here and there will not only make you feel happier by releasing endorphins and feel more motivated, but it is also sure to rocket the kids back into your favour despite leaving the fridge door open constantly and never switching the lights off.
Your heart is arguably the most vital organ in your body; without it, nothing else works. In short, a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy heart, so it is important to do everything practicable to take care of your cardiovascular health particularly during this lockdown period when it is more tempting to reach for junk food and watch Netflix. Heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK, so whilst it is important to stay safe during these anomalous times, it is also crucial to stay healthy too.
If you’re concerned about your heart health or want more information about maintaining your wellbeing, you can get tips on Dr Jeff Foster’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also book an appointment to see Dr Jeff for a Male MOT by calling 01926801111 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.