This strange year has seen all of us becoming more aware of our health – especially as lockdowns and restrictions have meant more of us staying at home for longer than ever before.
And Covid-19 has sharpened our focus on our own bodies. The data shows it is more likely to cause serious and potentially devastating symptoms if those who contract it are overweight, or have underlying health conditions. So now, looking after yourself is more important than ever.
This month will need us all to be creative, but with exercise still encouraged both inside and outside the house, it’s worth thinking about what you can do to get out and get fit.
What counts as good exercise?
Government guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week – and bear in mind, those of you working from home, that you’d be surprised how much you’re losing by simply not walking to work from the station. A brisk walk absolutely counts as exercise, but so does a short run or a bike ride.
There’s great advice on starting on the NHS Better Health website, with lots of tips to get started and free access to both the Active 10 walking app as well as the ‘Couch to 5K’ running app.
London’s best adventures
London is well known as the greenest big city in the world, and there are plenty of healthy adventures on your doorstep. Whether on foot or two wheels, our Acting Editor Andy Silvester picks a couple of his favourites – are any of them near you?
The ‘other’ side of the Thames
Everybody knows the walk along the South Bank from Westminster to London Bridge – but walking along the river on the other side is even more rewarding.
In the east, heading through Shad Thames towards Greenwich gives you the chance to enjoy not just the industrial wharf architecture of the area but the shining skyscrapers of Canary Wharf from up close. Finish at the Cutty Sark and you’ve got the perfect mix of old and new.
And in the west? Heading from Vauxhall out through Battersea Park and into Chelsea will give you the chance to see the stunning new development at Battersea Power Station which, for better or worse, you have to see to believe.
A view to a thrill
It’s hard to beat the view of London from Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, and you can see why plenty of Londoners have spent hours there over the years. The Heath is somehow even more wild in the winter, and a refreshing blast of air always sees me right.
But if you’re south of the river – like me – then the upper park at Telegraph Hill has an even better vista. A short walk from Peckham, Nunhead and Lewisham, it’s well worth the trek up the hill.
Topping up your vitamins
It’s that time of year when we can’t make vitamin D from sunshine. To keep your bones and muscles healthy it’s best to take a vitamin D supplement every day between October and early March.
This is especially important as many of us have been indoors more than usual this spring and summer.
You can get vitamin D from most pharmacies, and supermarkets and other retailers. Just 10 micrograms a day is all you need – it’s the same for the whole family.
More advice on vitamin D, including amounts for babies and young children, can be found on the NHS Better Health website.
Keeping your mental health
There’s no question 2020 has seen many more people feeling a little anxious – that’s understandable in a year of difficult circumstances. Working from home too can add a bit of stress; whilst you avoid the commute, spending so much time in one place, often not kitted out for working, can be a drain.
Taking care of your mind as well as your body is essential during this time. You’re not alone if you’re feeling a bit run-down at the minute, but the good news is that there are plenty of resources available if you need a bit of help.
Better Health – Every Mind Matters is endorsed by the NHS and holds expert advice and practical tips. It’s key feature is the “My Mind Plan,” which asks a few simple questions to help you build up your own personal pathway towards a healthier, happier life.
But if you need a little more help, there’s support available too. Many employers have put programmes in place for those finding this year tough. But on the NHS, you can also take advantage of what’s called Talking Therapy – used by thousands of people to fight conditions including panic disorder, PTSD and OCD among others. You can be referred by your GP or via the NHS’ IAPT service.
And of course, outside the health service, there are plenty of organisations providing help, support or just somebody to talk to. The Samaritans can be reached any time day or night on 116 123.
Keeping the mind right
Our Acting Editor Andy Silvester has been, like many, working from home.
“Living on my own this year has been tough, of course, with the sociability of the office gone and seeing friends socially understandably restricted. I’ve found it good to get out the house to get some air – when I was working from home full-time, that was a vital part of my day, just to break up the monotony of the same room, hour after hour.
“Taking some time away from the computer screen, too, helped. It’s so difficult to transition from work to ‘relaxation’ when you’re working from home – or rather, living at work. So for me a big part of that was shutting my laptop and putting it away, and reading a book for a half hour or so. It’s important to have that variety in your day – and demarcate when you’re ‘on’ and when you’re ‘off’.”
Getting ready for winter
This year, more than ever, it’s vital to get ahead of any illnesses that might come your way.
This year’s flu jab has therefore become more important than ever.
Safe and effective, it’s designed to protect the vulnerable from this year’s strain of influenza.
You can find all the details you need, including how to get it and whether you’re eligible for a free jab, on the NHS website.
The Government has put all the info you need for staying healthy this winter in one place: the NHS Better Health website.