As noted on the Government website, “staying active is a vital weapon against COVID-19, which is why people will always be able to, and encouraged to, exercise even during periods of tough restrictions”.

Last year the Government released guidance for the public and sport providers on how to proceed with group sports during COVID-19 – the current advice for group sports which require participants to be in frequent close proximity to each other (such as rugby or netball) states that both training and game-play should be adapted to “reduce the level of contact so far as reasonably possible and take steps to minimise risk”.

Lockdown has taught us all about the importance of interacting with other humans, and now that social distancing restrictions are beginning to loosen many people looking to get back into, or start, group sports to combine exercise and socialising. With this in mind, we questioned Vitality to get expert advice on the topic, including new physical activity data, the benefits of physical exercise (and specifically group sports), and some helpful injury prevention tips for restarting sports after a break. Read on to find out more…

New physical activity data

Tracking data from Vitality’s 1.3 million members showed 28% fewer physical events (such as cardio sessions, daily step counts and gym workouts) during a two-week period – from 16 to 26 March 2020 – compared to the 10 weeks period of 6 January to 15 March 2020.

Most prominently this was driven by significant reductions in the number of members achieving daily step goals of 7,000, 10,000, or 12,500 while people stayed at home. However, as lockdown measures eased (1 June to 28 June 2020), cardio sessions have been 45% higher than before lockdown as people kickstarted exercise routines.

Benefits of physical exercise and playing group sports

There are many benefits of physical exercise, including for both our physical and mental health. For example, regular exercise helps to increase our overall health and fitness levels, reducing the chance of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.

According to Vitality data, life expectancy fell by an average of almost four months (3.8) during the start of the pandemic – those suffering from poor general health saw a greater drop in life expectancy - of five months on average - while those already fit and healthy saw it drop by just 2.4 months. Vitality data also showed that individuals doing no physical activity are more than twice as likely to report symptoms of depression, and that even a small difference in weekly activity was associated with a significant reduction in mental wellbeing risk.

Team sports are a great way to build confidence, increase focus, and gain skills, such as teamwork skills, communication, and hand-eye coordination. The power of group exercise is the element of healthy competition, which can lead to improved endurance – for example, if there are varied fitness levels between the players, a group dynamic can create an additional challenge to keep up with your teammates or competitors.

Of course, there are also many positive social interaction aspects – social exercise through group sports can be a fantastic way to build relationships, and in many ways can form a support system. Being part of a team can also lead to improved self-esteem.

For more information on the mental health benefits of physical exercise, visit: https://adviser.vitality.co.uk/insights/mental-and-physical-health-relationship/

Injury prevention tips

After a break from exercise your muscles will be more susceptible to damage and soreness, so make sure you’re doing a cardiovascular warm-up for at least 15 minutes before you start your first game back. This will increase your blood flow and the temperature of your muscles, which will help to avoid injury. Most group sports incorporate plenty of running, so try functional movements like lunges, heel raises, and leg swings to warm the joints and muscles you’ll be using most during the game.

Likewise, at the end of any exercise, be sure to properly cool down – cooling down helps your body regulate between the temperatures and ensures you don’t get stiff. Try low intensity moves which stretch out your muscles or finish your game with a gentle a walk to gradually bring your heart rate back down.

Your lifestyle can impact an application when it comes to life insurance cover.We are committed to providing customers with the cheapest route to buy life insurance, and here at Cavendish Online there are a couple different options to help you find the best policy for you.

You can either get a quote yourself, which takes just a few minutes of your time; just complete this form here. Or, if you want some human interaction, you can choose to speak with one of our specialists over the phone – call us on 01392 241 850 to reach one of our helpful consultants.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and should not replace the relationship that exists between a patient and their existing healthcare provider. Cavendish Online are not liable or responsible for the accuracy of the advice provided by third party experts, nor for the content or operation of any third-party websites, webpages, or resources which have been linked to within this article. *Advice and information correct as of 20/04/2021

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