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Effects of the lockdown on your mental health, and the evidence of how consistently exercising during this time will have an incredibly positive impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.

This week has been eventful in HCMC to say the least. Direction 16 was extended until September 15 and on Friday, it was announced everyone must stay home for two weeks starting Monday 23 August. Understandably, this has caused a lot of distress for many. In our previous blog post about surviving the lockdown, we suggested several tips for making this experience easier, and given this week’s announcements, they are more important than ever. Nestled in that list was the importance of exercise on your physical and mental health. You may think ‘of course you would say that, you’re in the fitness industry’, but today we’d like to present to you the proof that it is absolutely essential to keep exercising despite being in lockdown.

Check out the lockdown survival guide here. Effects of the lockdown on your mental health **Click references to see the research**

If you’ve been through it or are currently in the middle of it, you probably don’t need me to tell you this, but the lockdown can lead to major increases in anxiety and depression. We’ve spoken to many people who’ve seen their mental health take a turn for the worse at various times over the past year. We did some research and found a study was done in Italy between March and May 2020 to determine the effects of the lockdown on mental health (A. Fiorilla, et la. 2020). Of the 20,000 participants, almost half described symptoms ranging from moderately stressed to severe depression symptoms, and almost 40% had symptoms of insomnia. Also, the symptoms increased in intensity as the lockdown progressed.

The study concluded by stating that even though lockdowns are essential, they are a serious threat to the mental health and wellbeing of the general population, therefore mental health needs should be an integral part of COVID-19 response. However, it didn’t suggest exactly what should be done.

  • Exercise and your mental health Since 10 May 21, KBF has been running live online classes, meaning as coaches, we’ve been committed to training six days a week. Even though we work in the fitness industry and we’re active every day, sometimes we can skip a day of our own training if we’re too busy with classes and PTs, however this hasn’t been the case since the beginning of May. Drawing on our own experience, Mia and I have noticed our mental wellbeing has been at it’s best for a very long time despite the uncertain times.

Several of our consistent online class members have stated how joining the sessions has had a hugely positive impact on their mental health and their ability to deal with the lockdown. So we looked for studies to determine if this link had been tested and documented.

We found a study carried out in 2004 entitled ‘Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood’ (Guszkowska M). The findings are probably no surprise. The results showed that exercise reduced anxiety and depression in both healthy people and those with clinical problems. The most improvements were caused by aerobic exercises using large muscle groups. Just 30 minutes of low intensity cardio, at least three times a week over ten weeks had the largest effects. The changes were explained by the release of endorphins brought on by the exercise. We found more studies showing the antidepressant effects of exercise (Chad D. Rethorst, et la. 2009) and another concluding exercise may be a neglected intervention in mental healthcare (P Callaghan 2004).

  • Effects on your physical health of skipping exercise for two weeks Lockdown days can feel like forever but also pass very quickly. Before we know it, a month has gone and we haven’t done the tasks we set out to do. One of which can be exercise. Let’s look at some of the effects of staying sedentary for just two weeks.

In a study carried out by researchers at the University of Liverpool (K A. Bowen Davies, et la 2017), 28 active, healthy people, aged between 21 – 43, reduced their daily footsteps from 10,000 to 1,500 for two weeks and to say the results were disturbing is an understatement. The study concluded that skipping exercise for just two weeks caused metabolic problems that could lead to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and even premature death! The researchers also recorded that the participants had an increase in body fat and a significant reduction in muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness. All this after only two weeks of no exercise! The good news is that it can be reversed pretty quickly by working out again.

The next steps We hope by now you’re pretty convinced that exercise is not an option during lockdown, it’s a necessity. The research proves it. In order to take care of our physical and mental health, we must exercise. Starting with three times a week is great, but due to our lack of daily steps in lockdown, up to 6 days a week would be perfect. As the research clearly shows, the alternative is not stagnation, it’s decline.

‘But I can’t go outside’ I hear you cry. So what can you do from home? Well, lots of things. There are a huge variety of exercises you can do in a 2m*1m area. For example, jogging on the spot, jumping jacks, squats, push ups, burpees, are very common exercises, but the list goes on. If you want a routine ready to go, check out our social media pages for free workout ideas that can be done by all fitness levels and in a 2m*1m space. If you struggle to get motivated to workout on your own, we are running a Saturday morning Online Community Fitness challenge. It takes place at 9am, is free to join, and like our online classes, has beginner and advanced levels to cater for all levels of fitness.

If you want a coach-led, group fitness class more regularly than just a Saturday, Mia and I are also running live online classes at 6:30am and 6pm Monday to Friday and 2pm on a Saturday. Classes combine HIIT and kickboxing, last around 45 minutes and have a different area of focus each day. They’re varied, fun, and will get you burning loads of calories. Classes cater for all fitness levels and abilities. These sessions do have a small fee but we believe it is an incredibly valuable investment.

If you have any feedback for us or any questions, please email us at info@kbfkickboxingstudio or message us on any of our social media platforms. If you enjoyed the blog, please share it. Until next time, stay healthy and safe.

Mike Co-Founder/Head Coach of KBF Kickboxing Studio

References A. Fiorilla, G Sampogna, V Gianollardo, et la. 2020 Effects of the lockdown on the mental health of the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: Results from the COMET collaborative network. Guszkowska M (2004) Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood C. D. Rethorst, B. M. Wipfli, D. M. Landers, 2012 The Antidepressive Effects of Exercise P. Callaghan, 2004. Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care? K. A. Bowden Davies, J. A. Norman, A. Thompson, et la, 2017 Short-Term Physical Inactivity Induces Endothelial Dysfunction


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