Tags: Physical Activity
Posted: Tue, 26 May 2020 12:13
The week is Mental Health Awareness week. Oxfordshire Mind's Francesca Moll shares her perspective of mental health and physical activity through the Walking for Wellbeing project along with sharing her top tips:
My name is Francesca and I run the Walking for Wellbeing Project with the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership. For those of you who don't know about us, Walking for Wellbeing runs friendly, accessible walking groups leaving from local mental health services, aimed at getting people with severe mental health conditions active.
Getting active and staying active is hard enough at the best of times, but for people with long-term mental health struggles, these challenges are only amplified. Despite this, over the year or so the project has been running I have been in awe of the dedication that our walkers have brought to the walks, and the determination they have shown in taking this important step to improve their physical health.
This hasn't changed during the Covid-19 crisis. I have been keeping in touch with some of my regular walkers via phone throughout this period, and despite the fresh challenges that lockdown has brought our way, many of them are still finding new and creative ways to keep active. So, I thought I'd share some of the strategies they've told me about, as well as some advice from me, on how to keep up your physical activity during these difficult times.
- Go with a friend- You're more likely to stick to whatever exercise you've planned if you have company. Could one of the people in your household do it with you? Or, if you both agree and can obey the government guidelines, perhaps you could go on a distanced walk with a friend or support worker, rather than catching up over the phone?
- Try something new- Now is a good time to try a new activity from the comfort of your home (there's lots of great ideas here), or explore an area of your neighbourhood that you've never been to before on a walk. That way you will focus more on the fact that it is a new thing rather than the fact it is exercise.
- Have fun- The key is tricking your brain so that it feels like adventure rather than a chore. You could look on your daily walk as an expedition. Spend some time planning routes with a map or an app to get yourself excited, and pack a backpack with supplies, including a healthy snack as a reward. Or you could do some dancing around your kitchen to your favourite cheesy songs. These things might sound lame, but the beauty of isolation is that no one will ever know you're doing them, so you might as well!
- Refocus your mind- physical activity can provide temporary relief from difficult thoughts and a welcome distraction, especially if you combine it with some form of mindfulness. You can download meditations to do while exercising from many mainstream mindfulness apps. If you're not able to spend money on that, some simple things you can do involve focussing on the rhythm of your steps while walking, trying to spot particular flowers or wildlife, or focussing on your breathing while running (which will also help with your performance).
- Physical activity isn't just exercise – Many things that you wouldn't expect count towards your physical activity total for the day, including some chores. You might be surprised how much you're doing already- walking into town to pick up shopping or a prescription counts!
- Baby steps- these are challenging times. A lot of very difficult feelings are only going to be reinforced by the current situation. There will be days where getting out of bed feels like an achievement, and that's ok. Set yourself small, realistic goals – can you walk to the end of your garden, or to the end of your street? The key is doing something—and once you've got started, it's often easier to keep going. But if today is just not the day for it, be gentle with yourself, and don't feel bad about it. You can always try again another time.
Finally, if you would like more encouragement around staying active during lockdown, Walking for Wellbeing is currently running a weekly Virtual Walking Newsletter. It features tips and encouragement from me, my volunteers and walkers, as well as a description of a walk around a picturesque location, to help give you some of the feeling of going for a walk together, even though we're not able to meet in person. You can sign up using the mailing list link below.
You can sign up to our virtual walks here: http://eepurl.com/c8jzjH
Posted: Wed, 06 May 2020 13:31
At Active Oxfordshire, we're passionate about breaking down barriers to sport and physical activity. With a national lockdown in place and significant disruption to everyday life, this is more important than ever. We're very grateful to Nathan Tree from Oxfordshire Association for the Blind for sharing his inspirational advice and top tips in our latest blog:
Living with sight loss often puts up barriers when it comes to being active. But when coupled with social isolation keeping us all at home and social distancing limiting how people can be guided, it can feel like an impossibility.
As an avid Blind Ice Hockey player myself, having my schedule cancelled hit me hard. I am used to training at least twice a week and going to the gym in between. The lockdown has also meant that my annual trip to the Canadian National Blind Ice Hockey Tournament in Toronto was postponed until further notice. As this is my passion, I started the lockdown struggling to be motivated in maintaining my fitness for the future.
The government guidance states that we are allowed to leave the house once a day for exercise but because social distancing is in effect, it can be very hard to do this alone. I try to go out walking/ running once a day and am fortunate enough that my partner can be there to guide me and tell me when to avoid other people. I appreciate that this may not be possible for all, so I have created some tips for exercising alone in public:
Getting active in public
- Use a visual aid such as a symbol cane or blind running vest so people know you may not be able to see or avoid them.
- Stick to areas you know well.
- Try to go at less busy times.
- See if you can go with someone who can guide you at a safe distance.
Staying active at home
There are plenty of exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home without the need for specialist equipment. You could take a leaf from Captain Tom Moore's book and walk laps of your garden, or do what I have done and create weights using heavier items in the house such as a money box full of coins or some water bottles.
The Oxfordshire Association for the Blind partners with Jessamy Chanel Yoga to deliver online chair yoga each Friday at 10am using Zoom. This is a low impact exercise that is available free and adaptable for all ages and ability levels. Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/events/1337475569973892/.
Audio described workout programs available online
The British Blind Sport first steps program is also a great way to get children exercising at home:
To anyone with a visual impairment who finds it hard to get active, is just starting out or is inactive at the moment, I'd advise you to use the resources available, try a range of activities, see what works for you and – most of all - keep trying.