5 ways to regain control of your physical health

The past 18 months have been immensely challenging. The stress of the pandemic and being confined to our homes has understandably resulted in some unhealthy habits. Prevention Lead Gosia Bowling and Head of Emotional Wellbeing Brendan Street discuss how we can get fitter and healthier, from exercising more to having a better sleep routine.

A survey earlier this year by Public Health England revealed that the consecutive lockdowns had taken their toll on our physical health, with households across the country reverting to unhealthy eating habits and reducing the amount of exercise undertaken.

  • One-third of people reported snacking on unhealthy food and drinks at least once a day (35%) with data showing an increase of around 15% in sales of take home snack foods, including confectionery and biscuits
  • One-third said they were exercising less (30%) in the latter half of the year
  • 29% of smokers agreed they smoked more since the second national lockdown, attributing the change to being worried about their physical and mental health (42%) and having money worries (41%)
  • 23% of drinkers (at least 1 unit a week) claimed that their alcohol intake has increased since the second lockdown – this is reflected in a 28% increase in take home alcohol sales compared to the previous year.

People are however keen to improve their health, with the survey finding that 7 in 10 of us are motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes in 2021 due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Here are 5 ways you can regain control of your health and fitness.

Get moving

Being active can improve your physical wellbeing, and can also help you maintain a healthy immune system and a healthy mind.

For healthy adults, the recommendation is to complete a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise across the course of the week. Short duration, very vigorous exercise (around 75 minutes) can also bring equivalent health benefits, so you can choose the types of activities that best suit you and your lifestyle.

Remember: the greatest gains are seen in those who go from doing nothing to doing something. You don’t have to be an athlete, everything you do counts.

Build your strength

At least twice a week, all adults should also undertake activities which increase or maintain muscle strength (resistance training). The activities chosen should use the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body.

Daily activities that build strength can include stair climbing, carrying shopping bags, lifting and carrying children, and gardening. In a gym environment this can include activities such as using bodyweight, free weights, resistance machines or resistance bands.

Joining a gym can also provide you with plenty of options for strengthening specific muscles. Our gyms are fully equipped with resistance machines and free weights. We also offer a range of group classes where you use your bodyweight and weights to strengthen your body, such as HIIT and BODYPUMP™.

Hydrate

Now is a great time to try out new habits such as drinking more water. It's recommended we drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid each day. Avoid options with added sugar or sweeteners, or caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic and causes you to lose water. Dehydration can reduce your concentration and thirst can be mistaken for hunger, leading to snacking.

Why not start the day with a glass of water and a squeeze of lemon? Sparkling water with fruit or herbal teas are also a great way to keep your beverages interesting without going too sweet.

You may want to track your intake and use your urine colour as a trusty hydration indicator. Is your urine clear and pale? If not, you aren't drinking enough water. The NHS urine chart can help you to work out if you are drinking enough or if you need to increase your fluid intake. 

Eat healthily

Refined, processed and sugary snacks can compromise immune function, so simple swaps to fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds are a great way to also get more antioxidants in your diet, which also reduces inflammation in the body.

Certain nutritional steps can boost your feelings of energy and vigour, if you are feeling sluggish due to a sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy eating. Have a look at our article on nutrition tips for boosting energy for more tips to increase your energy levels.

You could also check out our simple store cupboard recipes, which can provide inspiration to kickstart your healthy eating.

Wake up to sleep

Being confined to home with disrupted routines and using artificial light and screens for work, communication and entertainment has played havoc with our body clocks and the country is now having trouble sleeping.

A staggering 50% of the UK population report that their sleep has been disturbed due to COVID-19 and the number of people experiencing insomnia has risen to one in four. Google searches for the word “insomnia” have also surged significantly, with searches peaking around 3am.

It is vital for health to maintain a regular sleep routine and good sleep hygiene. The quality and quantity of sleep impacts your physical health, mental resilience and immune function.

Take a look at our list of sleep articles to help reset your body clock and bedtime habits. Or if you need some extra help, our guided therapy and self-help therapy both include a dedicated sleep module.

Last updated Friday 17 September 2021