Week 20: Chair’s Blog – Keeping Healthy

As I’m sure many readers will be aware this is Mental Health & Dementia Awareness Week.  I’ve been focussing a lot on similar related issues in recent blogs but this week I thought I’d talk a little about physical health, which in my eyes at least, is inextricably linked with mental wellbeing.

Like many people, I spent far too much time in my early years of work, stuck in an office or at a computer.  When you’re younger you take for granted your physical health and whilst I did get involved in some sports and other activities, that began to reduce as the years whizzed by and increasing work and other responsibilities took over, although as anyone with kids will confirm they certainly keep you on your toes when they’re small!

I didn’t do biology at school so my knowledge of the human body, like many people these days, is hugely dictated by what can be gleaned from the internet.  When we are younger, accidents happen, and some unfortunate individuals do suffer other ailments in the prime of their lives which can significantly alter the course of future plans – although I never cease to be amazed by extraordinary tales of disabled athletes and other such inspiring stories.

For those of us with more active jobs, relaxation can often take a different form, but for a lot of us the need for physical exercise becomes ever more important as we get older, particularly, if we’ve been deskbound for years.  The type of exercise that suits you depends very much on your body type of course and it’s important to seek the right guidance when exploring options.

I’m fortunate in some ways that I’ve always had a similar build (genes perhaps) which has enabled me to have a go at most sports – whilst never really excelling at any of them!  After several years of not doing too much, I started in 2009, doing the 5k Parkrun on Wimbledon Common and not long after got my son involved as well.  I’ve started doing it again recently after a break and can’t speak highly enough of the extraordinary achievements of Parkrun, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  The Wimbledon run was the second one of what is a huge international success.

If running isn’t quite your thing, the Walk and Talk Movement has also started to develop very quickly from a small start, also in Merton, during lockdown and has the added advantage of being able to talk freely and make new friendships whilst getting regular exercise.  And these days in Wimbledon particularly it seems, there’s a panoply of gyms, catering for a range of budgets if it’s just a regular workout that you need.

Gyms often seem to be targeted at younger members, but it’s always worth seeking out local classes and other groups tailored for different age groups and physical conditions.  I’m no doctor but I’ve become acutely aware that as we grow older our muscle mass weakens and it’s important to get the right form of exercise in and out the house to keep those joints moving freely and hopefully save on some of those trips to the GP and A&E – and ease the pressures on our hard-pressed NHS staff!

One of the things that was rammed home on the acting course I attended in 2019 / 2020, was the importance and interconnectedness of body, mind and soul.  However, it’s not just critical as an actor, it’s critical to all of us in our general health and wellbeing.  Getting the oxygen pumping round our bodies keeps us alert, mentally aware and can contribute to a greater sense of our happiness.

Having said all this, last week I went down with a physical ailment that I’d not had before. I won’t go into details, but it was initially quite painful, then latterly quite concerning. After several searches on the internet, I found what appears to be a way to deal with it and thankfully I seem to be on the mend. However, it highlighted to me that health sometimes isn’t just mental and physical exercise, it’s also diet… Obvious perhaps, but something I will pick up in next week’s blog.

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