A number of studies have recently been published which have looked at the effects of COVID-19 impacts on mental and physical health. One study by University College London (UCL) found that over two-thirds of adults (69%) in their study reported adverse mental health effects due to COVID-19, including anxiety, boredom and depression. Uncertainty about the future presents further challenges for people with regards to maintaining positive mental health. If you run and exercise regularly you will be aware of the many positive benefits, both mental and physical, of going for a run. Recent research by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has shown that regular activity can ‘boost our immune system to help minimize the effects of the virus, ameliorate our symptoms, expedite our recovery times and lower the likelihood that we can infect others with whom we come into contact’. Their research has shown that exercise is a very effective medicine. We’ve created a simple guide, with these tips to help you stay safe and well, both mentally and physically by including running as a healthy activity.
· Try to run as usual and stay active. Running is a safe activity and will improve your mental health too. When you exercise your brain releases dopamine and other endorphins, which can create a ‘happy state’. In addition, the hippocampus — the part of the brain associated with memory and learning — has been found to increase in volume in the brains of regular runners.
· Try to run relaxed for some of your runs and avoid being a ‘slave to the watch’, trying to run set times or splits most of the time, which can become a negative habit if done too frequently. We only recommend running hard two times a week as a maximum. Enjoy your runs and being out in nature. Keep your easy runs easy. Easy runs actually make you very fit! The world marathon record holder runs most of his training at 70% of his maximum – not 100%! Most of your running might be at a conversational pace, meaning you can talk as you run. Running relaxed has been shown to boost endorphins and promote a positive mood.
· Stay connected with others. We could do a promo post about the Fitwins App and how you can connect with others in groups (OK, we just did!), but if you want to connect by social media, Strava, or share your runs on another platform, it helps to know that you are part of a community. Give someone kudos – a ‘well done’ can make someone’s day and spreads positivity
· Try to eat healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables (5 a day). It’s been shown that low-mood can often lead to poor dietary choices and resorting to eating unhealthy snacks. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene, and can boost serotonin levels
· Getting a good night's sleep during the pandemic will not only boost your immune system but will promote positive mental health. Make sleep a priority, just as you would healthy eating or being active.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, if possible, especially during the pandemic, when routines may have been disrupted.
Remember it’s good to get outdoors and exercise. Fresh air and sunlight can significantly improve mood, whilst also boosting Vitamin D levels and immune function. Keep running, stay safe and keep being awesome.
SET YOURSELF A GOAL. Write down a target of what you want to achieve. Eg. xx miles in one week/month. FITWINS offers monthly distance challenges to motivate you to achieve your goals with the Fitwins App.