This weeks blog is written by Henna Evans one of our volunteers.

For many of us, we know we should do more exercise. Not only for its numerous health benefits but also for the stress reduction it can provide to our daily lives and notably for the sense of community engaging in sport can bring. These all have been proven to provide multiple advantages for our mental health also. Engaging in vigorous activity can actually help offset the anxiety fight or flight response. Amazing isn’t it? Sport can really heal.

But how do we still stay active or even start becoming active during a global health crisis? We certainly cannot exercise as a group when told to ‘stay at home’ in order to ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’, especially as that entails a ban on household mixing.

However, we were granted as a nation one form of outdoor exercise a day at a distance from others. As a result, as someone who has been moderately active prior and during this pandemic, I did find a sense of community develop on my daily cycle or walk, more so than perhaps before the pandemic when exercising outdoors. People started to slow down and take in their surroundings while exercising.

There was a sort of camaraderie that grew from difficult circumstances, the occasional nod, the smile from a stranger, sometimes frowns passing you as you exercised and this for me kept me sane during the pandemic.

In essence, from exercise during Covid, I found a refuge from the daily stress and worry the pandemic and being stuck indoors brought. It gave me an hour to recharge and find my community again. It was an opportunity to stretch, breathe in some fresh air and gain perspective while I shook away the stale cobwebs of my tiny flat and the poetically termed ‘confinement’ from French for lock down.

I felt more communities come together from this very unusual time and my daily exercise has been an important part of that. I started to slow down and notice other individuals from my neighbourhood that previously had not. I started to grow more of an appreciation for the limited but beautiful green spaces around me that quite frankly kept me going during coronavirus restrictions.

As I live alone and I am quite social in nature, going out for exercise was also my only opportunity before bubbles formed to see another human being and that was of paramount importance to my mental well-being. While technology is great and has no doubt helped most of us during the pandemic, it is only a replication of face to face contact. It cannot replace physical human interaction. It can only simulate.

That is why my daily exercise was and is so important to keeping me well, mentally, physically, spiritually when having to spend more time at home. It only reinforces from my perspective what sport has always done: build communities. I feel now I know more Lichfield faces than I would have done before because of people slowing down and being able to exercise more around my neighbourhood. Silver linings and all from a very challenging time. Maybe you feel different?

It surely cannot be denied how important getting fresh air is. Whether you are a hyper pro sports athlete buff or a complete beginner, I would highly recommend taking that permitted hour exercise by the horns, embracing it and even if it rains, learning to dance in it because movement equals freedom and freedom equals agency and a sense of control over unpredictable circumstances.