At a time when outdoor movements have been restricted and our stress and anxiety levels higher than usual, keeping our bodies moving and putting our self-care front and centre is paramount. One thing that many have done to achieve this over the last while is exercise.
While outdoor exercise and home workouts have kept us going, many of us are eager to get back to the gym. As lockdown begins to ease, Jacqui Pope, Head of Service at GLL & Women in Business Member, shares why now is the time to get active by heading safely back to the gym. GLL is the social enterprise which operates gyms and leisure centres on behalf of Belfast City Council.
Most of us have been forced to become more sedentary over the last year. With working from home and restrictions on the amount of exercise allowed, we have all been sitting down a lot more. Being active, whether that means a heart pumping cardio workout, a yoga session or a swim can have a direct impact on your overall health and sense of wellbeing. Physical activity produces your brain’s feel good transmitters called endorphins. After exercise, your muscles may feel tired, but you will feel more relaxed. You may also feel a real sense of achievement which can boost your self-confidence and overall wellbeing.
Health means different things to different people. More than ever, physical and mental wellbeing are closely linked. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems; an increased risk of some medical conditions; and negative impacts on our physical health that make day-to-day life much harder. That is why it is so important to find a way to be active that suits you.
Exercises and activities you enjoy will motivate you to continue. This might be a dance class where you just let go and enjoy the moment. It might be a work out routine in the gym that has been designed by a fitness instructor to focus on what you personally want to achieve. Or it could be quality time spent as a family taking a dip in your local pool. Finding something that suits you will keep you wanting to come back for more.
Part of a Community
Your local leisure centre or gym is a shared space for anyone in the community. You may be on a different part of your fitness journey than the person lifting weights or running on the treadmill, but you all share a desire to lead healthier lives. That creates a sense of community where you can find support and help from others, a few laughs along the way and some much needed motivation. For older members, it’s a regular social part of the diary and can help tackle loneliness. For busy parents, it’s some much needed time for themselves. For groups, it’s a chance to meet regularly and maintain friendships.
Better for Everyone
While most of us want to lead healthier, more active lives, this may seem out of reach for those with pre-existing health conditions. There should be no barrier to physical activity and for that reason we operate several health intervention programmes that offer gym access to those new to exercise. Health wise is a physical activity referral programme. If you meet the required criteria, a GP can refer you to your local leisure centre for free membership and advice on both getting and staying active. There is also Move More NI, funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and offered in partnership with physical activity providers, local councils and health and social care trusts all over Northern Ireland to support people living with cancer to improve their fitness. A pilot scheme is also currently underway to support post-Covid patients through rehabilitation and recovery using physical exercise.
Give it a Go
Not all of us are ready to make a long-term commitment just yet. You may need a bit more information, or to try out a few different options. You might even want to assess your health before you start with an online health check. No matter your concerns, it is making the commitment to lead a healthier, more active life that is important. Small changes can make big differences and your local leisure centre and gym have simple ways to help you feel fitter and better.
GLL operates Better leisure centres and gyms across Belfast. You can find out more about their services by visiting www.better.org.uk/belfast