11 April 2020 – As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial for everyone to stay fit and to be active while remaining at home and practising social distancing. However, those edicts combined can seem like a paradox.
FIFA.com spoke with Luke Anthony, the Clinical Director at GoPerform, an injury and performance centre based in Reading, England, to get some ideas and tips for fans across the globe to remain physically and mentally healthy during this time.
Anthony has 19 years of experience working in professional football and rugby. He was the head physiotherapist at Watford for more than seven years, before going on to work as the head of sports medicine at Reading and as an injury prevention specialist at Norwich City.
FIFA.com: How important is it to be active and to stay active during this time, particularly when it comes to our mental health?
Luke Anthony: The psychological aspect is huge. Most people when they exercise, even if they’re doing their gym programme in the gym with 50 other people, you’re interacting with people all the time. From a mental point of view, not being able to have that social exchange, that has a big adverse effect I believe on your mental health, certainly once you go past three weeks. That’s for day-to-day people. For professionals, you multiply that by ten.
Your gym work is a regular thing. What do you have at home? You’re lucky if you’ve got a bike and some weights and some space to be able to do the stuff. You’re not going to be coached or have anywhere near the facilities you normally have. You can see the disparity of a football player – all the clubs around the world will do the best they can for their players. They’ll give them programmes to do, they’ll try and get equipment to them, but even the most dedicated professionals will be operating at 20 per cent, I would say, of what they can do in terms of their training-ground environment. It’s just such a big ask of them.
Do you recommend video games during this time of home lockdown?
Playing FIFA on the PlayStation, I don’t think it’s going to improve you as a player or do anything from a technical point of view. I think it’s more about that interaction, talking and socialising. To a certain extent you run out of things to say to each other. It’s not like you went out and did something great yesterday or had something interesting happen or talk about the football match that was on TV last night. You need different things to keep people talking, so if that’s video games, that’s brilliant.
The WHO recommends 30 minutes of exercise for adults each day along with the following suggestions: online exercise classes, dancing, playing active video games, jumping/skipping rope and practising muscle strength and balance training. Is there anything you would add to that?
I say this to all my patients: the easiest way to get fit is to run. Running works everything. It works your heart, your lungs, your muscles, flexibility, you’re outdoors, there’s a bit of coordination to it. It’s the best form of exercise, no doubt about it. The key is variety, both physically and mentally. Now that there’s online classes everywhere, there’s a good opportunity to do stuff, but the biggest thing is variety. That’s what your body will thrive on.
We know that from an immune point of view, the fitter and stronger you are, the better your immune system is. Doing a low level of activity will see your immune system pushed to the left and you’ll be more susceptible. If you do contract an illness, the stronger you are going into it – and this is for all age groups – you’ll cope better. In the UK they haven’t talked about it enough, but people who smoke need to stop smoking; if you drink, reduce your alcohol intake and have alcohol-free days, make sure you look after your diet, make sure you’re hydrated – all of the basic things in terms of protecting your body are really useful. Exercise is the number one and it’s key.
Could you lay out what an ideal structured day of fitness for anyone should look like during this time?
In terms of a daily structure, routine is important. I’ve listened to podcasts and read books about prisoners and people who have worked on submarines and in those confined environments for long periods of time, and the one thing that consistently comes up is to have a routine. That helps prevent you from creeping down that route of not exercising and eating poorly.
The main pillars are seven to eight hours of sleep, which is fundamental, your routine in the morning with breakfast and a combination of some exercise – it might be an online class or it might be doing some weights in the garden – then you need some form of social interaction. If you live on your own, you’ve got to make use of technology. You must communicate with people. I’ve spoken with quite a few people I’ve not spoken with for ages! I’ve made a list of people I’ve not spoken with for a long time. Actually, each day I’m making sure I speak with two or three people on the phone to have a catch up. Some form of study is important, whether that’s learning languages or trying to play the piano or guitar, reading a book, listening to a podcast, you need to exercise your brain and work your brain as well.
Hydration, nutrition – make sure at least one meal is very nutritious – and just some down time doing stuff you enjoy doing. If you’re getting each of those in your day, that’s a good structure. Variety is key because if you’re doing the same things at the same time, that could get a bit stagnant. Having a checklist is important too. To have a list of things could be helpful. Life is precious. This virus should teach us that, because you never know when you’re going to have it again. All being well we’ll get back to normal in a few weeks or months, and you’ll probably think again that you wish you had the time. Don’t look back and think, ‘What a good opportunity that was to do the things I meant to do’. Put yourself ahead in the time. What would you regret not doing in the time you have now?
To recap, here’s a breakdown of Anthony’s #BeActive #HealthyAtHome daily tips:
- Seven to eight hours sleep
- Exercise – running works everything
- Social interaction – call family and friends
- Study – languages, playing music, reading a book
- Nutrition – make sure one meal is in the day is nutritious
- Down time – do stuff you enjoy doing