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Staying active whilst working from home

Two members of the University community exercise together outdoors

13 May 2020

Tips for managing your physical health

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of us are working from home. Some of us are isolating or shielding and not able to step further than our front doors. This calls for a degree of creativity and flexibility to help us remain physically active.

The team from the University’s Occupational Health Service have suggested some tips and useful resources to inspire us to move in any way that works for us. Remember to take the time to support your physical health and mental wellbeing.

Tip one: Create a new habit

A lot of us will have had an established fitness routine before the pandemic started. Some of this may have included walking or cycling to the University, and walking around the precinct is a workout in itself.

The members of the Occupational Health team either walk or bike to work and agree it is part of their foundation for staying physically healthy.

Aimee Grey, Occupational Health Manager, says: "On average, I probably did five hours of pretty fast walking each week whilst I commuted on foot at various stages of my journey to and from the University. Whilst I am now working from home, I’ve started to miss the routine wake-up and wind-down walks before and after work.

"It has taken me a couple of weeks to get into a new routine, but I do try to start or finish my workday with a walk. I am feeling the benefits mentally and physically and notice the difference it makes when I miss it. My dog, Henry, especially likes the routine!"

Occupational Health Technician, Karen Neal, suggests finding ways to reframe your mind to be active and stay focused. She says: "I find it helpful to get my workout kit ready the night before I plan to do some physical activity. This means as soon as I get up, I am prepared. I will also leave my yoga mat out ready to do an online class, perhaps at lunchtime or during the evening. Just seeing it is enough of a motivational reminder of what I had intended to do before I got busy on my laptop."

"Currently I am doing my yoga teacher training," Karen says, "and I have learnt lots of great techniques for strengthening the lungs and breathing well. Moving also improves the circulation system and, in turn, the lymphatic system, which helps to build stronger immunity. Motivation enough for me!"

Read more about boosting your immune system from Harvard Health.

Tip two: Listen to your body

Why do we regularly need to move, anyway? In short, it benefits the whole body. Find out what happens inside your body when you exercise in this video from the British Heart Foundation to be reminded – or motivated – into action.

You can adapt and create positive new activities that are meaningful, useful or enjoyable, and get you moving whilst you stay at home.

Ask yourself which activities you like that also stretch and flex your muscles and keep your joints mobile. In particular, think about your spine health and introduce simple mobility stretches to keep your back healthy and happy.

It is important to listen to your body and work to your own level. Try some activities to gently raise your heart rate and work your circulation system, going at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Take five minutes to check out some of our team’s current favourite exercise resources. These are great for slotting into your day when you are having a break from your workstation:

  1. 5-minute wake up workout from the NHS
  2. British Heart Foundation's 10-minute living room workout
  3. Chair-based stretches to help you at your workstation
  4. Everyone Active Home Workouts
  5. Tai Chi Movements for Wellbeing (TMW) classes online

Tip three: Do what makes you smile

Karen suggests: "Dig out your exercise DVDs, book virtual classes or delve deeper into your activity apps. Take advantage of lots of great free online resources that are available right now.

"Find what works for you and makes being active enjoyable. This is key to helping you create a healthy habit. Have you got some long-forgotten gym equipment packed away in the loft or the garage? Now plug in your favourite music and move your body to lift your mood – dancing is allowed!"

Jessica Hodges, Occupational Health Adviser exercises with her family: "Over Easter, we obviously couldn’t go away like we normally do," she says, "so we got hold of our bikes and went out together. I had not been on a bike for about 15 years, so wondered whether I would remember how to do it!

"After a bit of wobbly start, it was fine, and something I ended up really enjoying – although I do admit I ended up with sore muscles in various places I will not mention here! We’ve been out together as a family several times now, and it is definitely getting easier and something we will continue post-lockdown."

"I love cycling," agrees Mike Hagan, Occupational Health Adviser, "it’s something I’ve done for years and I feel I need to continue to help support my health and wellbeing. I get out regularly and I am careful to avoid busy areas.

"I’ve also started to come around to the idea of doing online classes. I need to manage my back health and I noticed that being at home more has caused my back to stiffen up a bit, simply because I’m not moving as much as normal. I came across some useful sessions on a health and wellbeing community website called Healthflix online. They ran a session on lower back care which really helped me feel a lot better and has encouraged me to find other online resources and try some new classes."

"I’ve dipped into the UoB B:Active at Home timetable,” says Aimee, “it’s a really useful resource offering a variety of activities to take part in each day to keep healthy. I particularly like the Les Mills workouts."

Tip four: It is not just about moving

Physical health isn’t all about being active. It is also about drinking plenty of water, eating well and taking breaks – having moments to pause regularly throughout the day.

Taking care of yourself at your workstation is important too. Check out the new workstation and DSE e-learning module from Safety and Health Services, which gives some great advice about adapting your home workstation to support your physical health.

There are also a range of other resources to look at:

Let our team know if you find other creative ways to get active. We'll be sharing even more tips over the coming weeks.