'Quarantini' Anyone? How To Stay Healthy In Mind And Body At Home

Being trapped indoors means looking after our physical and mental health is vital
13:55, 23 Mar 2020

Keep those spirits up, dear reader! For many of us, being confined to our homes for the foreseeable future is now a reality.  Social media is currently flooded with people devising inventive ways of keeping distracted and active during these vexatious times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

From playing golf with feline friends, to orchestrating mass sing-alongs (or even tennis games) with neighbours outside windows, or writing that great novel the world doesn’t know it has been waiting for, there are plenty of examples of activities being dreamt up.

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Take Juventus’ Paulo Dybala. He has instructed his 1.9 million followers on Twitter to ‘Keep on working out, keep on smilin!’ Though the message from the Argentine is of course with all the very best intentions to offer his own slice of encouragement and positivity, it’s maybe a bit easy to say when you’re on £225,000 a week and able to afford your own gym!

It’s more likely we’ll be resorting to squats, star jumps, wall sits and deadlifts with random bits found about the house. One gentleman has apparently taken it to heart and ingeniously made his own homemade treadmill, all with the aid of washing up liquid and a bit of water on his squeaky-clean floor.

With over 40 years experience in health, fitness and lifestyle improvement, Wellbeing Life Coach and Public Health Nutritionist, Yvonne Wake (BSc MSc Reg.PHNUTRI), is staunchly adamant of how important it is to stay fit even behind closed doors.

"Right now, we are ‘stopping’," says Yvonne, “Sometimes we’re not even having a shower, we’re getting bogged down with television, sitting around in our pyjamas. We’re mind-bogglingly bored at the moment.

“We need to wake up the body. It doesn’t have to be too vigorous, we don’t want to start injuring ourselves when we can’t see a chiropractor. Gently, slowly, build up everyday and do it in a mirror so you can self-correct.

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“Start with a 15-minute routine then move on to half-an-hour. The one thing I would recommend is fresh air: if you have a garden or garden space, get that Vitamin D intake. Find a local park, alone, and breathe in the trees to strengthen your lungs. If you don’t, it will be so counterproductive when trying to combat infection.” 

The message is clear: we need to keep our energy up, our strength up, and make sure that we’re eating properly. 

Being cooped up in a house as instructed can be draining and demoralising. That’s why it is vital to consider the positive effects exercise has on an individual’s mental well-being.

“Exercise creates serotonin, ‘the happy chemical’, and we need to keep the serotonin up,” Yvonne says, “If you’re watching television or working from home on a computer screen, you’re not getting any stimulus, and therefore your brain isn’t functioning at all the same as it would with serotonin, the hormone that brings you joy, that brings you happiness, that makes you smile, and gives you energy.

“As an increasing number of us are being told to self-isolate, let’s make the most of it and be mindful to live within the now.”

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Simon Hall, CEO of The Nourish Group and presenter of podcast The Nourish Life Show concurs.

“Staying fit 100 per cent is extremely important given what’s going on in the world,” Simon tells The Sportsman, “However most people when they hear 'staying fit' think of physical activity, which of course benefits health and the immune system. The one thing we overlook though is how keeping fit adds so much value to our mental state and emotional health.

“Daily routines give people a little more than what meets the obvious eye. For example, a lot of people who exercise will always mention it gives them that sense of grounding, mental space, mental accomplishment, growth and that in itself is a huge factor here when in isolation.

“Keeping fit is extremely important,  but also keeping mentally and emotional fit is also crucial during these times. 

“Find your routine given the new set of circumstances that we have all found ourselves in. We have to remember that we are creatures of habit and we are products of our routines and what we repeatedly do.”

Simon has a helpful mantra to cope with an unfamiliar and ever-exacerbating scenario. “Where external control has been lost, finding a sense of internal control is a must, create routines that allow you to stay fit in all areas health, physical, mental and emotional, daily.”

When it comes to the type of exercises the majority of people can try in order to keep active from the comfort of their own living room or hallway or kitchen (probably not the last one), there are certainly some easy-to-follow guidelines.

“When we’re talking about the whole populous, not everyone is energetic enough to start exercising standing up,” Yvonne says. “If we’re considering everyone, we’ll start with a sitting down pose, with your legs stretched out in a pelvic-stretch position. You literally just reach your arms up and stretch them as high as you possibly can, 10 times on each side. 

“Now you’ve got a bit more flexibility, move up into a standing position and bend over to try and touch your foot on one side, come all the way back up - here it’s important to bend your knees - and repeat on the other side. Always bend your knees when you’re asking your spine to do something big.

“Once you’re in a standing position, do those arm stretches up and out to the side. Then, bend your knees with your back straight and hold on to that position. Swivel the top part of your body to the right, come back to the centre, then swivel to the left. Try to do this without moving your hips so you isolate the lower body. After that, try punching forward, punching out, at an invisible punching bag.”

For abdominal work it’s moving back down to the floor. “Leave the whole body on the floor and work with the legs,” Yvonne suggests, “Lift one leg up, then one leg down. Do not let the back come off the floor. Use your legs to create core strength. Improvise that same move by bending them in, and taking them out straight, together.”

“I really think it’s important given the current circumstances that people find things they enjoy and do that,” says Simon. “Perhaps look at trying to doing something a little different from your norm. The internet has so many options, guidelines and suggestions these days, remember there is still so much choice at people’s fingertips.

“I would also say on a mental side trying things such as yoga, guided meditations and breathing work.

“For exercise, you don’t need a gym, it can be something as quick and simple as 10 of each of the following, continually for a set amount of time of 10 - 20 minutes:

  • Body Weight Squats
  • Press Ups
  • Sit Ups
  • Lunges
  • Burpees

“Just 10 minutes of exercise will improve your mood, help reduce stress (as well as improve the ability to cope with stress), lift self-esteem, generate a sense of physical accomplishment, increase personal satisfaction, and elevate feelings of energy.”

Though Simon’s instructions will benefit, not everything however has to be so procedural. Sometimes it is just as simple as rocking out spontaneously.

“I put my old iPod on, by chance, and a song came on,” says Yvonne. “I loved the tune, so of course I turned it up and I started to dance, in my hallway, and I burned energy.

“Rubber bands and dyna bands are also exceptional. They’re very easy to use and get strength from. If you don’t have any handheld weights at home, improvise using a tin of peas. Hold one tin, and lift. Move on to two tins, high in the air.

If you haven’t got at least a tin of vegetables or something of the ilk, now might be a good time to do a quick - though not excessive - shop. A lot of people are in the midst of ‘panic buying’, with supermarket shelves being cleared on a daily basis. There is, however, a basic nutritional procedure people should adhere to, a good choice of food items that people should specifically think of purchasing.

“Simply, the healthiest foods have one ingredient,” informs Simon. “Eat lots of single-ingredient foods for example carrots, broccoli, oranges….. 

“The single-ingredient foods are also the natural ones, the ones with high amounts of vitamins and other nutrients in there load up on the colourful stuff.”

“100 per cent, it’s got to be plant-based,” Yvonne explains. “We need to increase our antioxidant intake. We need to make sure we are building up our immune system. I’d suggest making vegetable soup, with every possible vegetable you can get your hands on. Make a large batch and get it frozen.

“Mindful eating and mindful action in your body is crucial. Do not forget that you’re a person living in the real world and at the moment you’re having to compromise and improvise on how you live your life.

“We’re being told not to move right now, and we’ve got to find a way of moving.”

There may very well be tough times ahead, and we all may very well be looking at those four walls a bit more than we’d prefer. Just think of all those prison films where the incarcerated hero comes out ‘hench’ and toughened up and you’ll be right as rain.

And at the end of another gruelling day, when all the thirsty work is done, try your hand at this suggestion from Simon. “I’m going to use this opportunity to coin the ‘The Quarantini’, an espresso martini but that’s going to boost up your health. Simply, hot water, chopped ginger, lemon and turmeric. Served in a martini glass….”

Who needs a bar?