The last year has had a huge impact on our health, both physically and mentally, and as we begin to ease out of lockdown restrictions, it is important we’re looking after ourselves.

Whether you’re looking forward to working out in the gym again or meeting up with friends, taking small steps can help to improve your physical and mental health at a time that may feel overwhelming.

Bupa Health Clinics’ interim medical director, Dr Alexandra Oliver, gives her top five tips to boost your health as we come out of lockdown:

Ease back into exercise

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While many people have got into a routine of walking much more over the last few months, going back to the gym and introducing weight training into your exercise regime uses different muscles that may not have been worked properly since the gyms closed. Make sure you’re easing yourself steadily back into your exercise regime, as overdoing can result in injury. Even if you’ve been doing workouts at home, they’re unlikely to be the same level of intensity as you’d do at the gym. Start with lighter weights and build it up slowly. Light weights will engage the muscles you want, and get them used to the additional stress that weight training puts on them.

Understand the rules and respect other people

Although this may seem obvious, being aware and understanding of the rules are a good way of protecting your health. Whether going to a gym or out to meet friends, it’s important to follow guidance that makes it safe for you, for example one-way systems and booking in advance. Make sure you’re respecting other people’s space as some may be finding the easing of restrictions an anxious time.

Go at your own pace

With everything reopening again and not having seen friends or family since restrictions were introduced, it can be easy to throw yourself back into a busy social life. Remember your body isn’t used to a busy lifestyle, so ease yourself back in slowly and ensure you have time to recover. Many people may also have drank less over the last few months, so it’s important to remember that your body and tolerance to alcohol has changed and you might need to be sensible and take it steady. Similarly, if you’re feeling anxious about taking too much on, take a step back and move plans until you feel more comfortable. Feeling anxious is perfectly normal but it’s important to manage it. Listening to a podcast, doing breathing exercises, and talking to someone can all help reduce these feelings. If you’re really struggling with anxiety, please speak to a GP.

Get enough sleep

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Getting enough sleep is important to make sure you’re functioning properly. If you’re anxious or stressed, your body needs more sleep to recover. As restrictions begin to ease, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, aiming for 7.5 to 8.5 hours per night. Try and set a good routine, going to bed, and waking up at a similar time, as this will also help with returning to the office.

Get a health check

Having a health assessment is a great way to get a full picture of your current health and wellbeing, covering both physical and mental health. At the appointment you’ll have a suite of tests, from blood tests, musculoskeletal (MSK) mobility and flexibility assessment, to a mental wellbeing discussion. Following the tests, you’ll have dedicated time to talk through your results and get advice on how to make sustainable and manageable lifestyle changes.

For anyone who is worried about their physical or mental health, please seek help from a GP.

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