It can be easy to mope around feeling hopeless at the moment. With a lack of routine, exercise can go out the window and we can justify eating unhealthily to get some comfort.
Diana Moran, a.k.a. the Green Goddess, the iconic host of the fitness segment on BBC Breakfast Time in the 1980s, thinks differently. “I know it sounds strange because it feels very dreadful at the moment, but you have to try to be optimistic”, she says.
Moran, now 81, says that your health is “more important than wealth”, and devoting even a small amount of time to it each day will give us the “impetus to get up and go” in this lockdown.
She starts looking after her health first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed in her riverside Surrey home. It starts with a mental exercise: thinking through plans for the day and making sure she’s keeping busy. “I want to make certain I use my time wisely”, she says.
As soon as she gets out of bed, she stretches. She favours what she calls a “monkey stretch”: stand with feet hip-distance apart, bend your knees and lean forward. Let your arms hang downwards, and then slowly stand back up and stretch as high as you can towards the ceiling, while taking a deep breath in.
Moran repeats this five times. “I don’t like it at the beginning but it energises me”, she says.
As much as you can, try to eat nourishing food during this lockdown, which will keep you full of energy and mentally alert, says Moran. For breakfast, she has muesli with fruit and yoghurt, washed down with orange juice and coffee. At lunch, she’ll enjoy a salad, and in the evening she might have an omelette or fish with vegetables.
She advises making the most of the extra time you’ll have in lockdown for hobbies, which for Moran includes painting and gardening. Trying to see the silver linings of the next month will keep you going, says Moran: “Although this won’t be a pleasant time, my mindset is that it’s bonus time so therefore I have extra time when I can paint.”
With few reasons to go out, it could be tempting to spend all day sitting on the sofa. If you do want to have a relaxed day inside that’s fine, but make sure you aren’t continuously sitting for too long. “I advise you get up from your chair every half an hour to walk about”, she says. Even standing during the adverts on TV could be a good break, according to the NHS.
Getting up can also be used as an excuse to get in a little bit of exercise, too. “Don’t always push with your arms to get out of your chair”, says Moran. “Put your hands on your knees and use your thigh muscles to push.” This is especially important for older people, as keeping your quadriceps strong will allow you to maintain your ability to get up, use stairs, and walk.
Moran also recommends getting into a simple exercise routine that you can easily stick to during lockdown. You don’t need any equipment: in fact, Moran has exercised without any at home for years. And don’t feel that it has to be all-or-nothing: even 15 minutes a day can increase your life expectancy by three years compared to a totally sedentary lifestyle, according to research from 2011.