Being isolated during lockdown has brought challenges to almost every household, and many people say that their normal daily routine has been completely disrupted.
Not having a daily routine in any circumstances, can lead to anxiety and mental health conditions and research has shown that many people have found that doing exercise within their daily lockdown routine has helped them plan their day better.
So what are the benefits of having a daily routine and what should we include?
Well eating healthily, sleeping well, staying active and keeping your own personal daily routine as best as you can are all recommended during the lockdown.
Eating even more healthy than your normal habit and enjoying a healthy sleep hygiene is important.
You need to maintain a consistent sleep and meal pattern, otherwise your body just loses its habitual hormone fluctuation thereby adding to its stress and decreasing its ability to fight off infections.
Stick to your eating routine because your hormones and your sleep quality is affected by how your body is used to the feeling such as whether your stomach is usually more full or not before you fall asleep.
Whether you normally eat early or later, the timing of your evening meal gives a trigger to the body to indicate whether you are about to start winding down and sleep.
So if you are used to eating closer to bed time, continue to do that, as it will help with your sleep routine.
Ideally, however, it is better to adopt a healthier habit of leaving a good one to two-hour gap between your last meal and sleeping.
If you have a habit of eating two, typically three, meals a day then it’s preferable to continue that because your body is trying (during this self-isolation) to cope with so many stresses and outside influences.
Stress feels like it’s going to be the highest-priority issue people have, from being stuck indoors (or limited outdoors activities), or from risk of job losses, or adapting to problems about how to do their jobs effectively from home. It could cause a cascade of negative physiological events.
Managing stress is such a big concern that the idea of meditating, undertaking breathing exercises or just finding quiet time seems sensible because if you can manage the stress, the rest will come good: your sleep hygiene will be better, your eating habits will be better.
You need to maintain a consistent sleep and meal pattern, otherwise your body just loses its habitual hormone fluctuation
It varies a lot for two reasons.
People’s preferences means that if you’re a morning person, you’ll probably feel more motivated to exercise in the morning than if you’re an evening-type person.
Whatever routine you have pre-lockdown, continue to exercise on the same days and times as before.
However, physiologically, research has shown the evening seems to be the best time of day for exercise when it comes to building muscle, because in the morning your body is still in a hormone balance that favours muscle breakdown more so than building.
And we’re probably more in a period when we’re more likely to be losing muscles because for the most part, most people won’t have access to, for instance, weight lifting equipment or being able to go for a long run to the same extent.
It is better to do 30 minutes of exercise than not do anything at all.
If you’re in the house, find excuses to attend to small physical jobs like clearing the gutter or arranging your wardrobe by colour – just a succession of these gentle activities throughout the day is beneficial.
It may seem a small movement but it’s enough and all these little things are better than sitting and watching TV or on the phone for prolonged periods of time.
We are not suggesting that these activities solve the problem per se but research suggests that even doing this whilst standing and shifting from one leg to another, stretching, helps.
Also, for example, when you would be normally watching TV during the advert breaks, getting up and going to put your cup of tea down in the kitchen – moving for two minutes is stimulus enough to minimise negative health consequences.
Research has shown that even with that amount of what we call ‘non exercise intervention’ people build muscle and, surprising, bone strength and physical functional capacity – the ability to just get on with everyday activities – as well.
Over time, people report that they feel their range of motion is better and they improve their functional capacity better than people who do a single big block of exercise and then sit down to work.
If you’re in the house, find excuses to attend to small physical jobs – just a succession of these gentle activities throughout the day is beneficial.
If you’re eating excessive carbohydrates, you’re then going to push yourself towards insulin dependence and towards a high level of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone.
It becomes a negative loop – you’re more stressed, your body produces more cortisol, you don’t sleep, and you want more carbohydrate.
If you didn’t eat those carbohydrates that are no longer available in the shops (or at least not in my last two visits to the supermarket), you’re pushing yourself out of that loop and into a healthier profile when you don’t eat as much carbohydrate.
You’re starting to work in your ketosis phase – when your body burns stored fat for energy – and it means you’re going to have a better inflammatory response, you’re going to be more likely to be resistant to infections.
What to eat?
You could buy fatty fish – tinned salmon (especially the wild sourced type) or sardines in olive oil.
Not only are you getting your calories but Omega-3. We would buy fresh green vegetable produce but also avocados, which is a fantastic vegetable in terms of the right fats for neuro-activation and decreasing inflammation, and making you insulin sensitive.
The nuts that are the best are macadamias, pecans, red-skinned peanuts, pistachio (the latter if you are not too worried about the carb content), and seeds such as chia, flax and pumpkin, which are all full of good fats.
We would particularly avoid sunflower, macadamia nut oil or rapeseed oil as their nutritional profile is not so helpful.
Vitamin C is important to help boost your immune system – it’s found in kiwi and citrus fruits – but to help your body absorb it, you need Vitamin D and so if possible, sit or walk for half-an-hour outside to expose yourself to the sun.
Alternatively, you can also get your vitamin D through some food such as the fatty fish mentioned above, but also mushrooms.