‘How Activity can help with health’
It feels like quite a while since I last wrote my carer’s blog and I can only apologise for this delay however I am sure you will understand the nature of this Omnicron surge which has kept me busy seeing sick people and covering for colleagues who have been unwell. I do hope you and your loved ones have remained safe or if you did get the dreaded Covid virus it was relatively mild. The vaccine programme really has helped many of us to respond better to this surge.
With the clocks having gone forward and the weather improving I am going to write this blog about how physical activity can help your mental and physical health. This also coincides with the Carers UK focus month called ‘Active April’.
In previous blogs I have written about different themes including heart disease and mental health and I think physical activity can help improve both of these conditions and many others.
For me, exercise is like a magic pill that makes almost everything feel better. There is a chemical reason behind this in that the body releases ‘endorphins’ in our brains which are naturally occurring morphines that make us feel better about both ourselves and the world around us. Exercise also acts like a form of mindfulness to help take our minds off any preoccupations we may have for a while. When we come back to those thoughts, we may hopefully feel less stressed and see them more in perspective. I think this is particularly important for Carers who not only have their own worries to focus on but also those of their loved ones.
As I have gotten older, I have come to think about exercise in a different way. I used to time my runs or cycles always looking to improve but now I do exercise to enjoy the experience and the time away from responsibility. I often take our miniature schnauzer, Lucy, with me for added company. She used to run with me, but as I have aged and my jog speed has reduced she now walks quickly!!! Often I will bump into someone I know or take a family member with me for company which adds to the experience. The point is that I, like everyone else I know, feel more relaxed and able to cope with the pressure of life when I do regular exercise.
There are so many different exercises you can do from walking, running, swimming, cycling, tennis, dancing and strength and balance classes to name a few. Recently I have taken up yoga which is quite a challenge. Apart from the benefits to our mental health there are also numerous physical health benefits from exercise including from going for a walk. Regular exercise is proven to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. It can help you lose weight and thus reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. If you do have diabetes you will know that your sugar control is greatly improved with regular exercise. Over years, controlling these risk factors, through exercise will also reduce your chances of getting dementia. Weight bearing exercise can also protect against osteoporosis and all exercise helps you with your mobility, flexibility and muscle strength.
Now clearly we all need to be cautious about starting exercise. If you exercise regularly then you will know your limits but if you are starting or restarting then please take things slowly and build up gradually. Perhaps keep a diary so you can see how you are improving over time. You will see how your fitness improves and often surprisingly quickly.
I attach an interesting link which I urge you to read as it will give you more information on the benefits of exercise and what is sensible to do for your age. If you are ever on Leckhampton Hill then please look out for Lucy and myself.