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Abbeygate Sixth Form College student Rebecca Morley says we should all be exercising more

On December 8, 2020, when the first ever dose of the Pfizer vaccine was given, it came as a symbol of hope to many that the end of the coronavirus restrictions could be in sight.

However, we have another illness weaving its way through the population.

Rebecca Morley, of Abbeygate Sixth Form College
Rebecca Morley, of Abbeygate Sixth Form College

Unfortunately, testing and isolating won’t cut it for this one.

In fact, in a study carried out by the charity Mind, the isolation that has affected so many people during lockdown, has contributed to a rise in poor mental health, with 60 per cent of adults and 68 per cent of young people saying they have seen a decline in their own mental health during lockdown. (The study called the mental health emergency can be viewed here: https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5929/the-mental-health-emergency_a4_final.pdf? )

What if there was a ‘vaccine’ to protect our mental health?

Exercise can improve both physical and mental wellbeing (Picture:iStock)
Exercise can improve both physical and mental wellbeing (Picture:iStock)

Maybe not an injection, but what about a way to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, and to make you feel more positive in general? What if it could improve your sleep and your physical health as well? What if it had virtually no side effects and came at no cost to the NHS? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

While it is not the only answer, exercise could be part of the solution to better wellbeing.

In my opinion, it seems strange that so many people don’t regularly exercise.

Of course, the word exercise can seem daunting to some of us – running mile after mile, doing a never-ending set of press ups, or being passed by a, seemingly Tour De France standard cyclist going 100 miles an hour up a massive hill.

It doesn’t have to mean that at all. Exercise is a very individual thing. It can mean anything from a 10-minute walk down the road or walking up and down the stairs a few times, to chasing your 5k personal best or going for a 20-mile bike ride.

Right now, everything has gone virtual. We are spending so much more time indoors working on computers for hours on end, not moving from one spot all day, and slowly losing interest. Then we go to sleep and wake up the next day to start all over again. Exercise is one of the only things we can do now to escape the tedium of our everyday lives, so why not make the most of it?

Exercise can be the me time that we all need these days; a chance to forget about all the jobs you still need to do, to take your mind off the pandemic for a short while and to leave you feeling refreshed. The best thing about exercise is that, unlike work and school, you set the goals. It doesn’t have to be a time or a distance – it could be as simple as ‘I’m going to go for a walk three times a week’.

Achieving that goal will make you feel good about yourself and improves your confidence, which transfers into everything else you do, and then you set another goal, challenging yourself even more.

Why not set yourself an exercise goal and chase it. I think we owe it to the NHS and to ourselves, to look after mental and physical health by getting out for our daily exercise both now and in the future.

-- Rebecca Morley is studying A-levels in Physical Education, Biology and Psychology as well as completing an Extended Project Qualification.

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