Getting back on your feet after lockdown
Lockdown restrictions made it much harder for us to get out and about. As a result, lots of us are feeling less active and less confident than before. But the good news is, for many, lots of these changes are reversible.
What is deconditioning?
Following periods of moving around less, our muscles can become weaker and our fitness levels decrease and we tend to find it harder to do things we used to do - this is sometimes called 'deconditioning'.
Are you having difficulty walking as far as you did before? Do you feel a bit less steady on your feet? Are you finding yourself short of breath?
If the answer is 'yes' to any of these questions, then you're not alone.
While the good news is that lots of these changes can be reversed, we know being more active is sometimes easier said than done. Doing what you can, when you can, at a pace that suits you is the key to getting back into routines you used to enjoy or finding new routines that are more suitable for you.
I used to catch the bus to the next town, walk across town and come back home on the bus. Now I'm struggling to walk down the path.
I'm finding it hard to motivate myself after lockdown, what can I do?
We have all experienced the pandemic differently and it's affected us all in different ways. You may be looking forward to restrictions easing so you can get back to doing the things you enjoy and be more active, or you may be struggling to find the motivation.
It can be hard to get going, and often that first step is the most difficult, but there are huge benefits to being more active - both physically and mentally. Here are some tips that can help you get going:
- Start small and ease yourself in. You might not be able to go straight back to the things you did before, so start slow and take things step by step. Moving just a little more each day can make a big difference.
- Find something you enjoy. Finding an activity you enjoy can mean you're much more likely to stick with it and not see it as a chore. Maybe there's an activity you've always wanted to try. For some, it will be lacing up their trainers, while for others it might be a good afternoon of gardening.
- Connect with others. It might be easier to get back into the swing of things if you do it together. Is there a friend that might be feeling a similar way to you and just needs that nudge? You could start by just asking a friend to go for a walk.
- Be creative and adjust. You might not be able to do the things you used to do, and while that can be demotivating, it's also an opportunity to find something new. Find something that suits you.
- See what's going on locally. As things open up again, see if there's a class or group in your area that you could join. A routine can help you get active and add structure to your day. Why not check what's available at your local Age UK?
How can I stay active at home
Like many others, you might not feel ready to go back to busier places. But there are ways you can stay active at home.
Many tasks around the house offer ways to stay active. You could do some gardening, make sure you get up to walk around regularly to avoid sitting for too long, or you could exercise from the comfort of your own living room.
We've spoken to a fitness expert to put together some chair-based exercises that can help you stay active at home. You can find instructions on how to do those here.
If you're unsure about going to busier places such as gyms or leisure centres, you might find it reassuring to give them a call and find out what they're doing to keep people safe. You could also ask about quieter times so you can go when there are fewer people around. But only do what you're comfortable with, there are ways to stay active wherever suits you.
Feeling low or out of sorts?
Our physical and mental health are linked. If your health has got worse, you've lost some confidence or you're finding it hard to motivate yourself, it can have an impact on how you're feeling.
My health has got worse during lockdown, what can I do?
Getting back to being more active can be difficult if your health has changed during the pandemic. You may not be able to do the things you could do before, which can be upsetting and frustrating. Or you may not be sure what activities are safe to do now, especially if you're living with a long-term condition. If your health has changed, talk to your doctor about what you can do safely.
But even if you can't do the same things as before, there might be other ways to safely stay active. We Are Undefeatable is a national campaign supporting those living with a long-term health condition to find ways to stay active that work for them. Visit the We Are Undefeatable website.
How can I reduce my risk of falling?
Following the coronavirus lockdown and long periods of not being able to get out and about, you might be feeling less steady on your feet and more worried about falling.
But there are some simple things you can do to help improve your balance and reduce the risk of a fall:
- Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly.
- Stay hydrated and eat well (calcium-rich foods can help keep your bones strong, for example).
- Stay on top of any sight or hearing problems.
1 in 5 less steady on their feet
Six months after the start of the pandemic, 1 in 5 older people felt less steady on their feet than they had done before.
How can I stay active if I have long COVID?
Although we're still learning about coronavirus, we know that many people experience side effects for some time after. This is sometimes called 'long COVID'. This can make it more difficult to stay active.
Common symptoms can include:
- a lack of energy
- feeling out of breath
- finding it hard to concentrate
- a continued loss of taste and smell.
We have more information about long COVID. If you're at all worried you might have long COVID, speak to your doctor.