Over half of Brits have taken up a new form of exercise during lockdown, with many vowing to continue with their new regimes

As we wait to hear how Britain will be eased out of lockdown, it seems the constraints on our day to lives have led to some unexpected benefits, with three quarters of Brits (76%) taking up at least one new form of exercise since lockdown began.

First published: May 2020

Walking, specifically for exercise, has been the most popular new activity with three in ten (30%) introducing this into their lockdown regimes. Following walking, the next most popular exercises people have taken up are: jogging, yoga, HIIT, running, home treadmill, weights and cycling outdoors

Encouragingly, of those who have become more active over the past few weeks, either increasing exercise levels or taking up a new form of exercise, 8 out of 10 (81%) say they will try to continue with their new exercise regime once life returns to a ‘new normal’.

The survey, we commissioned, shows how Brits are making a concerted effort to look after their physical health during lockdown, and shines a light on some of the mishaps people have had, as well as the beneficial effects people are feeling from exercise on their mental health during these challenging times. 

With almost two thirds (64%) of those exercising often doing so at home, it seems it's not always quite as straightforward as when going to the gym. Almost one fifth (18%) have accidentally knocked into furniture, many have dealt with unwelcome interruptions in the form of pets trying to play (15%), deliveries at the door (14%) and children wanting to join in (13%). One in 10 (10%) has been laughed at by their family members or housemates.

It also seems we’ve become quite creative with exercise at home, with almost a third (31%) of Brits substituting household objects for gym equipment to support their workouts. Of those using household items in their workouts, just under half (48%) have incorporated their stairs, almost a third have used chairs (31%) and a quarter have used cushions (26%) or tins of food (24%) whilst working out. One in 10 have also found a dual purpose for wine bottles (12%) or bags of sugar and flour (11%), using these in place of traditional weights. 

For the majority of Brits exercising during lockdown though, the benefits are not just physical. Of those who have carried out some form of exercise over the past six weeks, three quarters (75%) say that exercise has helped them better cope mentally with the disruptive impact that lockdown has had on their day-to-day lives. 

Our Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Brendan Street, said: “The current pandemic not only poses a risk to our physical health, but also to our mental health.  In addition to social isolation or distancing, many are also dealing with increased levels of worry over loved ones health, employment and finances, which can take a toll on mental health. The benefits of exercise on our mental health have long been known, but now, more than  ever, we can utilise this benefit to maintain mental fitness during these uncertain times.”

With over a third (36%) of people believing their mental health has got worse since the start of the lockdown, this is most apparent within the 18 to 24 year age group, with over half (55%) feeling their mental health has worsened. Interestingly, half of this age group (50%) are failing to get more than 2 hours of exercise a week, missing the NHS guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise a week for adults aged 19-64.*

This is in contrast to the over 65s, nearly half of whom (47%) are getting more than 3 hours exercise a week, meeting the 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week recommendations set out by the NHS for adults aged 65 and older.** Only one fifth (17%) of over 65s reported feeling that their mental health has deteriorated in the past six weeks. 

We have a range of online tools to help people maintain and improve both their physical and mental wellbeing. Our My Wellbeing App allows people of all ages and abilities to access programmes and workouts to do from home - including wellbeing content from our experts - all in one convenient place. Normally only available to members, we have made the app available for anyone to download and use. 

If you’re looking for inspiration to vary your daily exercise regime, visit our building a healthier nation at home hub, which includes a range of workout videos, as well as emotional wellbeing advice and support for parents and kids to keep them healthy and motivated. Or follow one of our online home workout videos, such as this high intensity workout which has been specifically created so as to use no equipment and can therefore be done anytime anywhere. 

Those looking for support with their emotional wellbeing can now access a range of flexible, effective psychological therapies including, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions, counselling, interpersonal therapy, and access to psychiatric assessment, all of which can be delivered safely and effectively by phone, video or email for flexibility and privacy. For more information visit here.

Last updated Monday 14 June 2021

First published on Sunday 10 May 2020