Life Wellbeing Get moving: One-quarter of Australians have lost their legs in lockdown
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Get moving: One-quarter of Australians have lost their legs in lockdown

Survive the stress of life under COVID-19 siege by taking a walk every day: 30 minutes will do. Photo: Getty
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Despite mass grumblings about being confined to quarters, there is a legal remedy: Take a long, daily walk.

Take two if you like. Please.

More than 30 per cent of Australians are taking that advice, walking more then they did in the good old days before the plague.

That’s the good news from a Heart Foundation survey.

The bad news is that 25 per cent of Australians are walking less, at a time when stress levels are reportedly high and more people are prone to depression and anxiety.

More than half of those stuck on the couch are aged under 45.

Less video meetings and couch time

In a prepared statement, Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said staying active is crucial throughout this pandemic, and we shouldn’t underestimate the many benefits of walking.

“Regular walking is one of the best choices to reduce your risk of heart disease, lower stress and build a healthier body,” Professor Kelly said.

“While it’s heartening to see close to one-third of Australians are walking more, it’s equally concerning that many say they are now walking less.

“With many people now working from home or self-isolating, this can lead to more hours spent sitting in front of screens, in video meetings, or on the couch, and less time moving during the day.”

Mental health a key issue

We’re all a bit nutty at the moment. It’s natural. And some of us are struggling mentally and emotionally.

As The New Daily reported this week, a Swinburne University survey finds that people reported being depressed, stressed or anxious up to five times more than they were before the outbreak.

Years of research has found associations between greater levels of physical activity and lower rates of depression, but there was a big question going unanswered: Does exercise reduce the risk of depression or does depression lead to inactivity?

In January 2019, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators published strong evidence that physical activity is indeed a preventive measure for depression.

“Using genetic data, we found evidence that higher levels of physical activity may causally reduce risk for depression,” says Dr Karmel Choi, of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine, and lead author of the report.

“Knowing whether an associated factor actually causes an outcome is important, because we want to invest in preventive strategies that really work.”

A Harvard report at the time observed that exercise works as well as anti-depressants in some people (noting that people with severe symptoms still require medication).

So get moving, for the sake of your heart and your head.

Half an hour a day does the trick

The Heart Foundation’s Professor Kelly said: “You can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 35 per cent simply by walking 30 minutes a day, so making small, positive changes during this pandemic and beyond can bring big health benefits.

“Keep in mind doing three sessions of 10 minutes is just as beneficial as one 30-minute walk. The key is to move more and sit less, so try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods glued to your computer screen and take regular breaks to move around the house.”

Professor Kelly said “while this was a challenging time, it was also an opportunity to take advantage of the ‘wonder drug’ known as walking.”

Heart Foundation tips for stepping out

Walk and talk: Boost your steps by walking around while talking on your mobile phone.

Break it up: If you can’t find time for a half-hour walk, try breaking it up into 10-minute sessions throughout the day.

Grocery run: Instead of driving to the supermarket for supplies, try walking or park further away from the store and walk part of the way.

Well timed: Use the time you would have spent commuting to work to go for a morning or afternoon walk or do a workout at home.

Sit less: Take regular breaks during working hours and use them to walk around the house.