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Bailiwick Express article – September 2021 – Catriona McAllister

Title: Seasonal Shifts in Sport and Activity

It’s a proven fact that sport and regular activity supports both our physical and mental health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions have been a double edged sword. On one hand people were restricted in terms of the sports they could play, the indoor activities they could take part in and the social aspect of group exercise. While on the other hand, people suddenly had their timetables turned upside down and were gifted an opportunity to share exercise and daily movement with family both within the home and by exploring local parks, forests and seaside promenades. I personally loved seeing more people out on our roads, footpaths and pavements and hope this continues well into our ‘new normal’.

The shift into autumn and winter means many people give up on their outdoor activities in favour of indoor classes, gym-based workouts or home exercise, which has undoubtedly seen a huge rise in popularity since the pandemic. In Jersey, we are lucky to have so many outdoor spaces and beautiful natural landscapes that encourage us to continue moving outdoors throughout the year. Running or cycling around a busy, grey city centre definitely doesn’t hold the same degree of attraction! We also have a very active local population, with thousands of people surfing, running, cycling and sea swimming every week, whatever the weather.

When it comes to exercising for improved health and fitness, consistency is key, and the last 18 months have made it difficult for many people to maintain a regular exercise routine. With a change in weather and daylight hours approaching over the coming weeks, it’s important that we ensure we’re prepared, so that we don’t slip into the easy trap of using the weather as an excuse to do nothing.

Remember: focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Continuing to be active throughout autumn and winter means you won’t feel like a beginner again next spring. Plus, exercise is a great immune system boost which means that regular exercise helps your body better fight illness – particularly the usual colds and viruses that do the rounds each year. Exercising in colder weather forces your body, in particular your cardio vascular system, to work harder during exercise, meaning that you’ll continue to see improvements in your fitness, even when it feels more difficult.

Some of the ways you can support yourself with outdoor exercise through the autumn and winter include:

  • Set specific ‘SMART’ goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
  • Join a challenge – working out with others, virtually or in person, towards a shared result or outcome is highly motivational.
  • Make the most of autumn and winter days by wrapping up warm and wearing condition-appropriate footwear to avoid injury.
  • Find a partner, training buddy or group – if your motivation is low once the clocks have changed and the nights draw in, enlisting the help of a partner, group or a personal trainer/coach can make a huge difference to your success.
  • Schedule exercise sessions in your diary to show yourself you’re as serious about your fitness as you are about important meetings, medical appointments and social gatherings with friends.
  • Fit in whatever you can – if the weather or time constraints are against you, simply fit in what you can. A short 20 minute workout can totally shift your mindset and boost your happiness factor.
  • Swap sea swimming for a pool workout or use the autumn/winter seasons to take up a new indoor sport/actvity.
  • If you know you really hate exercising outdoors in wind, rain and darkness, invest in an exercise bike or home gym equipment and sign up to one of many online programmes to boost your motivation and keep you accountable.
  • When exercising in the cold, always ensure you warm up before starting vigorous exercise to avoid injury.
  • Layer up your clothing – there are so many great sportswear brands that create clothing specifically for bad weather and exercise that include reflective strips and special fabrics to absorb sweat and keep you warm.
  • Finally, and most importantly, always make sure you stay safe by being visible to motorists. Wear high-visibility outer clothing, trainers with reflective strips and a head torch if you’re out well after dark. This applies to everyone whether you’re a walker (or dog walker), runner, cyclist, horse-rider, skateboarder or any other activity that takes you onto, or next to, our busy roads.

At Jersey Sport, we believe that this is a time to be optimistic about our island’s future health and wellbeing. The Government of Jersey’s Inspiring an Active Jersey Strategy sets out a framework to achieve a more active population by 2030. An increase in the number of islanders playing or supporting sport will boost the economy through both the indirect effect of a healthier population as well as its direct financial contribution. Sport and physical activity has to be placed at the heart of our island’s long-term strategies in order to achieve these considerable goals in our island’s recovery.

To find out more about Sporting opportunities for islanders this autumn, or details of the Inspiring an Active Jersey Strategy, please visit jerseysport.je.

If you’d like to join a walking group, cycling group, running programme or take part in any of the Move More Jersey exercise classes or other initiatives, please visit movemore.je

This article was originally published in the Bailiwick Express on 16 September 2021.

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