By Karen Silverthorne
Whatever you have going on in your life right now, it’s important to pay attention to your health and wellbeing. Looking after your physical needs can have a knock-on effect on your mental state and this can put you in a better position to help yourself and those around you.
Exercise can provide a plethora of health benefits including helping to:
- reduce your risk of heart diseases;
- manage your blood sugar and insulin levels;
- keep your thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as you age;
- strengthen your bones and muscles, slowing the loss of bone density as you grow older;
- control your weight;
- reduce the risk of some cancers;
- reduce the risk of falls – something that can increase with age;
- improve sleep;
- improve your mood due to the chemicals that are released in your body when you exercise.
Exercise can take many forms and maybe one of the things to consider is: ‘Should I exercise indoors or out?’. Like anything, there are pros and cons to either choice.
But as the weather in this country often provides a reason to stay inside, why not take advantage of the British summer and leave exercising indoors to when the winter months arrive?
The exercise itself will help produce endorphins in your body which are a feel-good hormone that boosts your mood.
Outside activity can help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, another hormone that has a positive affect how you feel.
Often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, being outside in the sun, gives your body a chance to produce vitamin D. This vitamin has several important functions; probably the most well-known being that of bone health. But there is also some limited research to suggest people who are depressed are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D, and people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms. More studies are needed though, before any definitive conclusions can be drawn.
If you’re unsure what type of exercise to start with and perhaps don’t want to spend a lot of money on something until you’re sure it’s the exercise for you, outdoor exercise can also be a lot less expensive than, for example, signing up for a gym membership.
Living by the sea, as so many of us do in this area, means that swimming is free, though it’s probably best not to swim alone, particularly as some of our beaches don’t have lifeguards.
If you’d prefer to stay on dry land, walking needs only a decent pair of shoes – don’t forget to take some water with you.
Cycling can be a little more expensive at the outset, but at the moment, through the Department of Transport, the government have set up a ‘Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme’ which allows members of the public to receive a voucher worth up to £50 towards the cost of repairing a bike. The scheme is open to anyone in England who has an unused cycle in need of repair.
If you think running might be your thing, but can’t imagine pounding the streets for mile after mile, the NHS have put together a Couch to 5k plan that sets out a nine week running plan for absolute beginners and takes you to the 5k stage.
Perhaps all of this seems too energetic, but you like the idea of outdoor activity? If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then maybe now is the time to make the most of it.
Research conducted by the University of Exeter and the RHS analysed data from nearly 8,000 people between 2009 and 2016. They found that people who spend time in the garden are significantly more likely to report general good health, higher psychological wellbeing and greater physical activity levels than those who don’t spend time in the garden.
You might want to improve the soil, redesign the layout, do some planting or even establish a kitchen garden where you can grow your own veg. Having a herb garden doesn’t take up much space and, if you enjoy cooking, could give that added satisfaction of being able to pop outside and pick what you need.
If gardening doesn’t appeal, you can still make the most of your outdoor space, whether it’s a garden, patio or balcony. Yoga, meditation or simple stretches are all transferable in the good weather. Other non-exercise activities you might like to try are painting or photography – this could be in your own garden, a public park or one of the many private gardens run by places such as the RHS and National Trust.
So why not make the most of the many outdoor activities available and improve your health and wellbeing at the same time?
Benefits of Exercise: https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html
Benefits of Vitamin D: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-vitamin-d
Vitamin D and depression: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908269/#__ffn_sectitle
Seven health benefits of outdoor exercise:
Department of Transport Fix-a-bike voucher scheme: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fix-your-bike-voucher-scheme-apply-for-a-voucher#:~:text=Contents&text=The%20Fix%20your%20Bike%20Voucher,cost%20of%20repairing%20a%20bicycle.&text=Vouchers%20are%20being%20released%20gradually,more%20will%20be%20available%20soon.
NHS Couch to 5k: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/