Why movement and social connection are vital for health

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ecy

My name is Dr Hannah Dakin and I’m a GP in Methil in Fife.

Our GP practice have recently teamed up with Edinburgh Community Yoga to deliver a weekly chair based exercise programme on social prescription for a group of our patients who for one reason or another have become less active over the last few years.  Already we’re getting positive feedback so I thought I’d write a blogpost about how important physical activity and social connection are for both
our physical and mental health.

We have all become a lot less active over the last 20 years.  Computers, video games, cars, home shopping deliveries, robot hoovers and lawnmowers, social media and iphone; although they may be advances for society,  in many ways they are making us all less healthy as we move less and our health suffers. Covid also had a huge impact on our physical activity levels with many people losing a lot of fitness and muscle mass as a result of being less active. Currently the UK population is 20% less active than in the 1940s and if we carry on as we are we’ll be 35% less active by 2030.

Being active for just 30 minutes per day has huge benefits on an individuals health,
reducing the risk of  conditions like diabetes, breast and bowel cancer, dementia, heart disease and high blood pressure and stress levels. It improves muscle strength and mobility reducing the risk of falls and improves symptoms of fibromyalgia and our sleep pattern,  what’s not to love!

We also know that strengthening exercises in particular (so yoga , gym based exercises,
squats) improve muscle mass and help to lower blood pressure especially over the age of
50 when we lose muscle mass a lot more rapidly than when we were younger.

Yoga and chair based exercise are a great way to gradually improve our muscle strength
and mobility.  Don’t be put off if it’s something you’ve never done, the classes are suitable
for everyone and all participants are encouraged to go at their own pace, taking breaks if
needed. The classes are friendly and welcoming with time for a cup of tea and a chat
afterwards.

Social connection is also important for so many aspects of physical and mental
health and a chance for a wee chat and cuppa afterwards can make a huge difference to
how you feel for the rest of the week, often chatting to people who have similar conditions and sharing stories and meeting new people can help with mood and anxiety symptoms.

I would recommend that anyone who gets the chance to join these fantastic classes gives it a go. It is normal to feel nervous about doing new things but I’m sure you’ll enjoy them and notice improvements to your mobility and mood within a few weeks- that is what we are hearing from those who have started the group.