• Expert By Experience

Isolation Series: Exercise & Mental Well-being During Lockdown

Written by Rajinder Singh

I am Rajinder Singh, I am 73 years old and I’m from Harlington. Nowadays, especially on social media I am now known as the #skippingSikh. I love to skip, run or do any other form of daily exercise. I’ve been training from a young age. I was born in India and my dad was in the army, he used to skip and he taught me how to skip. I have skipped ever since then and now I have taught my family how to skip.

I have been running marathons for years and I love to stay active because it’s so good for my mind, body and soul. Exercise clears my mind from anxious thoughts. When I exercise I recite the word ‘Waheguru’ in my mind - ‘Waheguru’ means wonderful god. It’s my faith that keeps me going and I continue to skip or exercise for longer as a result. Reciting ‘Waheguru’ during my training gives me that determination to keep going.

I have had arthritis since 2003 and have been told on a number of occasions that I may need to have an operation on my back - I’ve always refused this option. It is through exercise that I’ve managed my arthritis. I put my faith in god and in myself that if I stay healthy and exercise that I can get through arthritis - and I have.

I have always been into fitness as it is in my blood. Just like I wouldn’t go out of the house without praying, having a bath or brushing my teeth, I can’t let a day go by without exercise.

I make sure that I do 30 minutes of exercise. I normally wake up in the early hours of the morning shower, pray and then do my exercise.

Then I may have a short nap and as soon as I get up after my nap I will then get onto the chores of the day such as cleaning the car, gardening in my allotment or anything that keeps me busy. I even wash the cars myself because that’s exercise.

For my training I use simple things that I have at home or in my garden such as water cans, a tyre or the pull up bar. Items that we used to put into containers filled with something inside, I make my own weights at home using these.

I have never been to a gym and I have maintained my body weight through a consistency of stable eating while avoiding anything sweet. My diet consists of very dark chocolate, brown rice, potato, brown bread, some vegetables, banana, cheese, milk. I also love Indian spices such as Ajwain.

I am a very simple eater, I only ever eat Punjabi food when I go to the gurdwara to have langar which is blessed food. I eat small portions and I eat 4-5 times a day. I love drinking coffee but again I make it very weak and try to have as much water as I can.

I am from that generation that’s considered ‘old school’ and sometimes I think I can keep going with my training and chores without getting tired. My daughter often reminds me that “dad you should rest.'' to which I normally reply ‘don’t worry, I am always resting’.

I love to stay active because meditation and exercise go hand in hand and I couldn’t live without them.

Exercise is so important because it makes you feel alive. Your mind feels so relaxed and you just feel a difference when you exercise. I am in the vulnerable category right now with the virus. However, I don’t feel like I am 'vulnerable' because I know I keep myself fit and healthy. I know if you do some exercise daily it will mean that some of your worries will become quieter in your mind.

It’s so crucial for South Asians to exercise as our food oftentimes isn’t very healthy so it’s important for us to look after ourselves.

I would encourage everyone reading this to please set yourself a target that everyday you are going to do something - this could be walking, jogging, skipping or even walking up the stairs.

Whatever you can do safely in the comfort of your own home, garden or else - do it. Don’t let a day go by without exercise.

Try it for two weeks and see how you feel. Eventually exercise becomes a part of your routine - as it has been for me.

It is important during this pandemic to not sit on the sofa all day, we need to be getting up every hour to move around and to also making sure that we stretch. You can put on your favourite TV programme, film, music or just listen to prayers/ meditation and walk on the spot - you can start anywhere!

I urge all the children to encourage their elders to stay active. Exercise is the medicine we need to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle. This extra time we have as a result of the lockdown is something we need to use wisely.

If there is one thing I want to put across in this article it's that exercise helps with mental health and wellbeing - I can only speak from experience.

If you have a garden and like to plant flowers and seeds then you can get a workout doing that - whatever works for you. There are so many creative ways to stay fit, you just need to find something that works for you.

I will be doing a live exercise from YouTube starting from this week so if you follow me https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVc37Q220fbMh8tNjiNMUrg I will show you some simple exercises you can do. You can see an example below.

I want us all to exercise together, so we stay active and healthy. This way we can also save putting additional pressure on the NHS who are already working so hard night and day to save lives.

Let’s help ourselves and let’s have the faith that god is looking after us all. All we need to do is get up and put the effort in for our own health.

God bless you all, stay safe, stay home and stay healthy. We will get through this.