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Lockdown Health Lessons

Five beneficial health lessons we've learnt during lockdown.

'You know what' turned the world upside down but it has also brought some silver linings, including some surprising health benefits, both mentally and physically.

Hand Hygiene: Coronavirus has finally persuaded us to take hand washing seriously, which can only be a good thing. “Hand washing is an incredibly effective way of stopping a wide range of infectious diseases,” says Professor Jeremy Rossman, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Virology, University of Kent. 

“Hand washing with soap and warm water kills everything within 20-30 seconds,” says Prof Rossman. In pre-Covid times, the average person washed their hands for ten seconds, killing 90 per cent of germs, which might sound like a good result until you consider how fast bugs multiply. So, with our new and improved hand hygiene regime, we can expect a host of normal winter afflictions like colds and flu to be significantly curtailed.

Outdoor Exercise: With gyms closed and exercise one of the only reasons we could escape the house, many of us discovered the joys of exercising outdoors. It's also good for your mental health. While any kind of exercise physically beneficial, exercising in nature also helps us feel happier. A recent study found that a 45 minute hike yields far greater mental health benefits than walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes. 

A report from Frontiers in Psychology says that even a simple 20 minute stroll greatly reduces stress hormones in your body. However, a weekly ‘green pill’ of at least two hours in nature is the minimum dose needed to feel happier and healthier, according to the Journal of Nature. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether you get your weekly nature fix in one long session, or a bundle of short bursts.

Family Meals: With commuting cancelled, gathering round the dining table became a much more regular occurrence. And it wasn’t just parents who enjoyed this. Researchers from Guy's and St Thomas's Charity found that 60 per cent of young people thought the increase in shared family meal times was good for their health and wellbeing too. Other research also shows that children who eat with their parents are more optimistic, do better at school, and are more likely to get their five a day.

“As a family therapist, I know that during times of uncertainty, both children and adults need rituals, like shared mealtimes, more than ever to provide connection and meaning,” says psychologist Anne Fishel.

Active ‘Transport’: Another flicker of positive news amidst the lockdown gloom was that pollution radically dropped and, for example, villagers in the Punjab reported seeing the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years.

“Air pollution is the main environmental factor that causes respiratory disease and heart disease,” says Professor Alastair Lewis, Chair of the UK Government independent science advisory group on air pollution. “The health risks of pollution are broadly comparable to other risk factors like obesity, inactivity or deprivation."

There seems to be an almost global consensus, unsurprisingly, that we enjoy cleaner air (and views of distant mountains) and are demanding that governments do their bit to ensure economies emerge greener. But, on an individual level, we all need to do our bit too, like driving less. “The optimum way is to walk or cycle... it solves two problems by dealing with pollution and physical activity and weight loss,” says Prof Lewis.

Kindness: The pandemic has unearthed a deep well of empathy and resilience in us all. “There has definitely been a feeling of camaraderie,” says Lowri Dowthwaite, Lecturer in Psychological Interventions, University of Central Lancashire. This kind of community spirit response builds our ‘post-traumatic strength’. “Rather than going into fight or flight, where we attack each other and become aggressive, we confide in each other and console each other and we know that kind of sociability is hugely important for our mental wellbeing,” says Dowthwaite. 

Original source: Telegraph

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