World expert advises 20 minutes exercise a day during lockdown

World-renowned exercise expert Professor Sebastien Chastin has shared his mood-boosting top tips to help us cope during the Coronavirus lockdown.

The Professor of Health Behaviour Dynamics in the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) advises us all to do at least 20 minutes a day of exercise, preferably in the morning.

He insists that bingeing on box sets and Netflix all day is the worst thing you can do because it’s addictive, changes your physiology and lowers your mental strength.

For those working from home, Professor Chastin has this advice – get up every 20 minutes, change position and stand up as much as you can. Don’t sit on the couch and work on your laptop.

The highly-respected polymath has a unique background in physics, data science and physiotherapy, and has published lots of research on how we can change our behaviour, our cities and societal systems to improve our health as we age and be kind to the planet.

Professor Chastin said: “I know this is a difficult time for us all but there are many ways exercise can help us better cope with the situation. The trick is to exercise 150 minutes per week and it is best done by doing a bit every day. So exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes a day and it will lift your mood massively. It’s probably better in the mornings so that your mood is lifted right away.

“There are plenty of exercises you can do without going to a gym. You can do all sorts of exercise while staying at home. That’s the big message. Go out and get fresh air but stay away from other people if you can and exercise on your own.

“There are also millions of videos on YouTube and the internet around about doing exercise at home. Dig out your static bike and use that. Encourage others in your house to exercise with you.

“Make up active games you can play indoors and outside in the garden with the kids or your partner. Even if it is just walking briskly for 20 minutes a day that will do you a hell of a lot of good, strengthen your immune system and just help you cope mentally.

“A steady sleep pattern is also very important and enables us to keep our natural circadian pattern. Studies from night shift workers and jet lag show that keeping a steady circadian pattern is beneficial to health and mental health.”

Professor Chastin said that sitting for hours on the couch watching Netflix or streaming online videos can damage your mental and physical health.

He explained: “Avoid the temptation of sinking into box sets or Netflix endlessly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch any but sinking into your box sets right away and binge viewing is probably the worst thing you can do for both physical and mental health. It is very addictive. You end up being a sofa-hugger and not being able to get out at all because you need a lot of mental strength to do that and since we’re all going to be stuck at home for a while, mental strength is going to be a lot harder to garner.

“This kind of sedentary behaviour changes your physiology very quickly and has a negative impact on your health. It is associated with higher mortality rates, and greater risk of cardiovascular and non-communicable diseases. It’s also very bad for the planet because sitting watching TV or the internet for hours releases a vast amount of carbon into the atmosphere.”

The lecturer and researcher, based in the University’s Physiotherapy Department and is part of GCU’s Ageing Well research group, also has top tips for those working from home.

Professor Chastin added: “Try to move every 20 minutes – stand up, walk around, make yourself a cup of tea, shake yourself up. That simple gesture will help your physiology, your mood without having to do exercise to start with – that is the bare minimum you should do.

“Don’t sit in front of your computer all day – especially on a couch for extended periods of time – that is probably the worst thing you can do.

“If you have to work from home ergonomically it would be better for your back and posture if you had a desk and chair. If you can prop your laptop up on the kitchen counter so you’re not sitting down all day and stand up to keep on working that is even better. Changing position is probably the best thing you can do when working from home and as often as possible.”

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