How to Banish the Lockdown Blues and Start 2021 Stronger

Saturday December 12, 2020

by Emma Hogan

Although recent vaccine news is a positive signal of better days ahead, COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to rise across the country. With partial lockdowns looming for most of us, we must stay both physically and mentally healthy. The holiday season is typically a difficult time for many in the LGBTQ community, and this year will prove to be even more challenging.

While the early part of 2021 will bring uncertainty, one of the best ways LGBTQ individuals can boost their overall health and wellbeing is by keeping active. Countless experts say that if exercise were a pill, it would be regarded as a wonder drug, the best medicine.

While feeling fitter, stronger and leaner are the most obvious perks of exercise, physical fitness is also beneficial for everything from musculoskeletal disease to cardiovascular problems and diabetes. Plus, it increases your immunological fitness, too. Exercise increases blood flow and mobilizes white blood cells, one of the primary defenses against harmful microbes. At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week is recommended, but anything is better than nothing. One study found that just 30 minutes of brisk walking increased the circulation of natural killer cells and other immune system warriors in the blood.

Exercise is also a formidable formula for mental fitness. And with looming lockdowns lessening our contact with loved ones, nurturing our mental wellbeing is more important than ever. Early in the pandemic, several Chinese studies found that people experienced high symptoms of stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. One study showed up to half of the population were dealing with severe signs of depression, whileanother found 35 percent were struggling with anxiety. Now, similar data is emerging from other reputable sources.

The good news is there are plenty of ways you can combat anxiety with exercise. Researchers have found that four aerobic workouts a week will ease negativity, while mindfulness and yoga can be a great way to relieve stress.

A new study reveals pre-bedtime stretching and meditation can improve sleep, boost positive feelings, and enhance recovery from mental and physical stress. These findings came after study participants completed a 20-30 minute sequence of stretches and 10-minute meditation three evenings a week for just two weeks.

Emma Hogan is a writer for Les Mills' Fit Planet, a suite of science-backed content created to help educate, motivate and inspire people to live fit and healthy lives.