Staying active during COVID-19

Physical activities include all forms of active recreation, participating in sports (normally).  Cycling and walking, as well as things you do for work, around the home and in the garden.  It doesn’t have to feel like exercise or sport – play, dance, gardening, and even cleaning the house and carrying heavy shopping is all part of being physically active.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically restricted us in our movements.  It’s more important than ever for people of all ages and abilities to be as active as possible.  Even taking short breaks from sitting by doing 3-5 minutes of physical movement, such as walking or stretching will help ease muscle strain, relieve mental tension and improve your blood circulation and muscle activity.  Regular physical activities can also help give you a routine each day.

Why should I exercise?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), regular physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.  It can reduce high blood pressure, help manage your weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers.  It also improves your bone and muscle strength which increases your balance, flexibility and fitness.

Regular physical activity also improves your mental health and can reduce the risk of depression.  This is well documented in many medical studies.  During a lockdown, it’s even more important to look after your mental health as well as your physical health.  It’s likely to improve your overall feeling of well-being.

How much should I exercise?

As an adult, WHO states you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week.   That’s just over 20 minutes a day or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week.  This should include muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week.

If you’re older or suffer from poor mobility, you should do physical activity to enhance balance and prevent injuries on 3 or more days per week.

How to stay safe while exercising in COVID-19?

WHO have given the following recommendations:

  • Do not exercise if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Stay home and rest, seek medical attention and call in advance.  Follow the directions of your local health authority.
  • If you are able to go for a walk or bicycle ride.  Always practice physical distancing and wash your hands with water and soap before you leave, when you get to where you are going, and as soon as you get home.  If water and soap are not immediately available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • If you go to a park or public open space to walk, run or exercise.  Always practice physical distancing and wash your hands with water and soap, before you leave, when you get to where you are going, and as soon as you get home.  If water and soap are not immediately available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.  Follow the directions of your local health authority in regards to any restrictions on the number of people with you and/or restrictions on the use of public outdoor play or exercise equipment.
  • If you are not regularly active start slowly and with low-intensity activities, like walking and low impact exercises.  Start with shorter amounts, like 5-10 minutes, and gradually build up to 30 minutes or more continuously over a few weeks.  It is better and safer to be active for short periods more frequently than to try and be active for long periods when you are not used to it.
  • Choose the right activity so that you reduce the risk of injury and that you enjoy the activity.  Choose the right intensity according to your health status and fitness level.  You should be able to breathe comfortably and hold a conversation while you do light- and moderate-intensity physical activity.

How do I stay active in and around the home?

WHO has given the following advice to stay active around the house:

Try and reduce long periods of time spent sitting.  Whether for work, studying, watching TV, reading, or using social media or playing games using screens.  Reduce sitting for long periods by taking short 3-5 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes.  Simply stand up and stretch or better, take a walk around the house, up and down the stairs, or into the garden.  By just moving around and stretching you can improve your health and wellbeing.

Set up a regular routine to be active every day.  By planning a physical activity or exercise break either by yourself, by joining an online class, or by setting up a time to be active online with your friends or colleagues.  Making a specific time to be active helps ensure you get your daily physical activity.  Put the time in your diary, and it will help remind you.  Stick with it, as this will help you build a regular routine, and help you adjust to new ways of working, study and family life under COVID-19 restrictions

Set yourself and your family Be Active goals.  By choosing a specific type of activity, time of day and/or a number of minutes you will do every day.  Get each family member to choose their own goal which sets a bit of a challenge but is realistic with help from family or friends and motivation.  Record your progress on a weekly activity chart and, if you think it would help, reward yourself with something you value.

  • Climb up the stairs as much as you can, think of it as an opportunity to be active.
  • Use household chores as a way to be more physical activity.
  • Join in an online exercise class or make up your own routine to music you enjoy that uses the major muscle groups and raises your heart rate.
  • Do some muscle-strengthening activities such as lifting weights or improvise using full bottles of water or simply use your own bodyweight and do sets of press-ups, sit-ups and squats.
  • Make time for fun, such as dancing to music.


If you’re in need of support during these worrying times, check out this article.  It has information on hardship funds and links for financial support and aid.

As always, there are also links to various support services here.

If you’d like to share your top tips for keeping healthy around the home, we’d love to hear from you.  You can submit your suggestions via email here or let us know on Twitter.  As lockdown continues, we all need to keep talking and sharing anything that might be helpful to others.


Follow us on Twitter @AdultWorkcom

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