The wider impact of COVID-19 on long-term health conditions
Monday the 23rd of March 2020 marked the government’s instruction for the country to go into a nationwide lockdown. The result, is nearly the entire UK population entering a period of self-isolation within the confinement of their own homes. This new stage will bring challenges for us all, especially in terms of maintaining our health.
Physical activity is vital for the treatment and prevention of many long-term health conditions, and the effects have been described by healthcare professionals as a “miracle cure.” Now, more than ever before highlights the need to understand the multidimensional nature of physical activity. Although we have the opportunity for an hour of exercise each day, this is in fact a very limited window, and it’s likely that we’re all missing out on activities that we would normally take for granted within our day. Whether this be the daily commute, going out for lunch, a trip to the shops, or even doing the school run – all of these activities matter and can add up to make a big difference which can’t just be discounted from our day. It’s therefore essential that we view the bigger picture of the whole day, as an opportunity to stay active and think about making the most of every movement we make.
Millions of people harness the benefits of physical activity to help manage their health, with statistics showing that there are at least 15 million people living with long term-health conditions in the UK. In addition to this, it’s estimated that 20% of these people live with 3 or more long term-health conditions.
This uncertain stage of isolation will make balancing the management of long-term health conditions extremely tough, and this will only be re-enforced over the next 12-weeks. It’s therefore vital that we not only focus on the direct impact of COVID-19, but also consider the wider impact of isolation on other health conditions, to ensure that mismanagement now doesn’t create a burden on health services further down the line.
If people do not carefully manage their long-term health conditions over the course of isolation, we could see a huge surge in the number of hospital admissions in an already stretched healthcare service. This has the potential to over burden the NHS at a time when they are already struggling to meet wait times, find enough beds, and support the most vulnerable during a pandemic which has firmly gripped the country.
Empowering people to self-manage their condition using the power of physical activity is something all of us here at KiActiv® are firmly behind. It’s likely that there are already activities in our day which provide a good source of movement. This could be anything from housework to gardening, or even going for a walk – the key is finding what works for you and making the most of your movement. Sustaining any improvements during this time, will bring huge benefits to your health and wellbeing, and is a big step in right direction to leading longer and healthier life.
The Role of Physical Activity in Managing Long Term Conditions
Hypertension is commonly known as high blood pressure. The primary benefit of physical activity for hypertension is a reduction in blood pressure, with studies highlighting that a positive dose-response relationship exists between physical activity and reducing the risk of hypertension – meaning the more activity you do, the lower your risk.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition caused when the hearts blood supply becomes blocked or interrupted. Physical activity helps the heart work better and is essential to keeping it strong and healthy. Inactivity and sedentary behaviour mean you use your muscles less and they become weaker. The heart is a muscle, so inactivity weakens your heart, as well as raising your blood pressure through blood vessels further narrowing and increasing the risk of developing blood clots.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a lung condition which leads to difficulty breathing. It’s vital that physical activity levels are maintained over the next 12-weeks in order to avoid the vicious cycle of inactivity. Inactivity leads to respiratory muscles being used less which means they become weaker. As this continues over time, the condition becomes worse which will make everyday tasks even harder.
Type-2 diabetes is a condition whereby a physically active lifestyle is one of the single most important things which can be done to help control your blood glucose levels. This is achieved through making the body more sensitive to insulin, and by helping the body use glucose as a fuel for our working muscles. Isolation measures will likely lead to an increase in sedentary time and inactivity which will increase the immediate risk of health complication, if blood glucose levels are not carefully monitored.
Lymphoedema is a long-term condition which results in a build-up of fluid caused by an impaired lymph system. Regular physical activity is essential in managing the condition as muscle contractions allow fluid to move between our tissues and lymph vessels. Inactivity over the next 12-weeks will see the lymph system become impaired and result in increased swelling due to a build-up of fluid.
The KiActiv® Team