The importance of exercise during Melbourne’s second lockdown

The importance of exercise during Melbourne’s second lockdown

Nearly a fortnight ago, the greater Melbourne region re-entered stage 3 restrictions, its second lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. I found myself struggling to articulate the tidal wave of emotions that returned with these restrictions. I struggled to the extent that I started writing this article the moment the restrictions had been announced, and yet a short page has taken me two weeks to complete.

I knew the message that I wished to convey; the same message I so often spruik and one I wholly believe: EXERCISE! I had the statistics, the structure, I even had the words down. And yet when I read over them, they seemed empty, failing to capture the underlying emotion of the situation.

It was not until last night that I finally reached an epiphany. And when I say I reached an epiphany, I mean my wife helped me find the answer. Just as I used to study her meticulous notes throughout university, once more she has provided the required insight:

“We are going through the five stages of grief as we process the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We started with denial. “It’s no worse than the flu”, “the media is blowing it out of proportion.”

As things progressed it became abundantly clear that we were wrong, and then our mood shifted to anger at those flouting (my favourite word to come out of this pandemic) restrictions and jeopardising our plans to flatten the curve.

As restrictions began to lift, we saw many examples of bargaining, organising gatherings with some in the morning and then some later in the afternoon so as to fit in with the newly relaxed rules. The definition of “essential” began to blur, and cases crept back up again.

And now in this second lockdown, the overwhelming feeling from myself and those close to me, is that we have reached the fourth stage of grief: depression.

The first time we entered stage 3 restrictions we did so with a strong plan and clear goal in mind: flatten the curve and save lives. However in spite of our good work during the first lockdown, we now find ourselves in a worse situation than we did back in March. This time it feels far more like a punishment than a solution, and the novelty (if ever there was one) has well and truly worn off.

All this, combined with the growing number of daily cases, serves to fuel the depressive state that many of us find ourselves in. And it is here that exercise is of paramount importance.

Evidence has shown that as little as half an hour of exercise on three days per week is sufficient to improve mood, and that this does not have to be consecutive; three ten minute bouts are equally as effective as one 30-minute block. Furthermore, both aerobic exercise (walking, cycling, running etc.) and resistance exercise (strength training) are effective at improving mood.

Exercising outdoors has shown some additional benefits, especially now as one of only four reasons to leave our homes. Moreover, it provides us with an easy way to reduce our screen time, with high levels of screen time associated with negative impacts on mood.

Home Active Physiotherapy is all about promoting physical activity and exercise. Understanding that the coming weeks and months will be difficult, we are now offering free 30min telehealth discussions to suggest strategies for improving physical activity during lockdown and beyond. Click the orange button at the top-right of the page, and follow the prompts in the online booking portal to book your session today.

For those wanting a more structured approach, we will also be offering personalised exercise programs, which will be taught over a subsequent 60-minute telehealth session, billed at 50% of our usual extended home visit cost and eligible for private health rebates. We are still offering home visits during this time for anyone unable to access telehealth services.

Stay safe. Stay active.

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