Staying active while staying home - resources for GP teams and patients

Working out at home

Dr Andrew Boyd, RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle

17 April 2020

One of the few exceptions to the government directive to stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis is to exercise once a day. This advice acknowledges that physical activity is vital for our physical and mental health, and for many people the daily workout has become the highlight of the lockdown day.

With the closure of gyms and sports clubs, many of us have modified how we get our physical activity – perhaps running, walking, cycling, or doing a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session in the park. But what can we recommend to those in society who are being advised to ‘shield’ and not leave their home? There is a risk of this already vulnerable group deconditioning further, not to mention the negative impact on mental health of being inactive and isolated.

Fortunately, staying home shouldn’t mean stopping physical activity. The vast majority of UK households (95%) have access to the internet and there are numerous online resources for all ages, preferences and abilities. Most are free. Here are some that the RCGP Physical Activity and Lifestyle project team recommend, together with our top tips to help keep yourselves, your team and your patients active at this challenging time:

  • The '#stayinworkout’ initiative from Sport England has lots of fun and creative ideas for physical activity at home, with workouts from Les Mills on Demand, Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) and FiiT, the home fitness app. There's also the latest advice around getting outside, with tools to help you make the most out of the fresh air during your daily exercise
  • London Sport has collated a range of free or low-cost physical activity resources that people, and organisations can use to stay active at home
  • Lots of fitness studios and yoga classes have moved to online platforms so people can participate at home – this article from the Independent newspaper has some examples
  • The NHS has produced some guides on home based workouts and chair based workouts and at One You
  • For parkrun practices, check out parkrun’s YouTube channel which has active home schooling videos, and hosts the Great Big parkrun Quiz at 9am on Saturdays, while parkrun events are cancelled.

Top tips for clinicians

  • Text your favourite links to your shielded patients with a message giving them ‘permission’ to stay active during lockdown
  • Share with your link worker or social prescriber, so they can recommend them to patients they speak to
  • Share with your practice team – if we don’t look after our own wellbeing, we can’t look after our patients as effectively
  • Start practice briefings with an inclusive warm up activity – it gets the heart going, and puts smiles on faces
  • Sign up to be an Active Practice – this gives you access to our newsletter, which this month focuses on wellbeing in lockdown.

A word of caution - while national guidance for adults remains to aim for a minimum ‘dose’ of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity over a week, this isn’t the time to be dramatically increasing activity volume or intensity. And if you have even mild symptoms of COVID-19 the advice is to avoid anything but very gentle activity until you’re recovered. 

Modern lifestyles have changed the way we work, play and move from place to place, causing general physical activity levels to fall sharply. The Physical Activity and Lifestyle project team has produced a toolkit containing resources and guidance to support GPs and patients to prevent and manage health conditions that are a result of being inactive.

Stay safe, stay active!

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