Missing the outdoors? Try some of these ideas to stay healthy



Making the most of existing technology and gaining new skills during the coronavirus lockdown could help combat social isolation, particularly among older people.

That is according to Professor Alan Gow from Heriot-Watt University’s Department of Psychology, who says the impact of the coronavirus means it's as important as ever to explore positive activities to maintain health.

Professor Gow works at the University’s Ageing Lab in Edinburgh and examines at how lifestyles and behaviour affect our health as we get older.

Many of the topics researched by Professor Gow and his colleagues involve class-based activities within communities. That is because there is growing evidence that social connections, trying new things and physical activity are good for health and wellbeing.

But with the current restrictions on movement in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Professor Gow suggests exploring new ways to stay mentally and physically active.

He said: “With the current situation here and around the world restricting our ability to get out, it’s important to think how we might still keep engaged.

“To see a positive in the lockdowns, it might be in the proliferation of opportunities to try things we’d never have thought of before!”

Professor Gow outlines some ideas that can be tried over the coming weeks in the home. Most of these involve having access to the internet, but if that’s a problem, the phone remains the best source of contact for many. With that in mind, Professor Gow’s suggestions are…

Reach out

For many, being at home for an extended period will be difficult. The important thing to remember is that help is available at the end of the phone. Across the Age Network (Age UK, Age Scotland, Age NI and Age Cymru), there are helplines ready to provide advice and guidance. If you have any concerns, just pick up the phone:

  • Age Cymru 08000 223 444 (Monday to Friday 9:30am-4:30pm)
  • Age NI 0808 808 7575 (8am-7pm 365 days a year)
  • Age Scotland 0800 12 44 222 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm)
  • Age UK 0800 678 1602 (8am-7pm 365 days a year)

Those lines aren’t just if you have a specific problem or question, they’re also there to listen and  provide a friendly voice.

Stay social (just not physically!)

Keeping in touch with family and friends is important. That might mean it’s time to explore video calling apps such as Skype and WhatsApp. There are a lot of ways to “see” people which can mean it can be a bit daunting if these tools have never been used before. Rather than navigating that yourself, speak to friends and family over the phone first and find out what option would be best.

Take in a show

Even with the lights off on Broadway and the West End, the refrain of “the show must go on” still holds true. It’s just in a slightly different format.

Across the internet, singers, musicians and theatre makers are sharing their talents. If you want a full performance, there are a lot of big shows being offered for free online. For example, WhatsOnStage have compiled a list which would take several months to get through! So draw your curations, dim the lights and soak up some theatre magic.

Explore some of the world’s greatest museums and galleries

It’s likely travel plans have been cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future but that’s not to say you can’t linger in the Louvre or marvel at the Met. Many museums and galleries have vast online resources to explore, with some offering full tours.

For something a bit more bite-sized, many galleries are posting individual images from their collections or talks from their curators, for example the National Galleries of Scotland. And what’s good about those opportunities is you can share your own thoughts in the comments and discussions.

Get up

Most of the things above can be done sitting down, but it’s important to keep active. If you can get outdoors, do follow the relevant Government and NHS advice. For those less able to get out, there are still lots of ways to keep fit in the house. As always, the NHS has some fantastic resources which also include sitting exercises.

When not exercising specifically, remember to take regular breaks from whatever you’re doing, even if just for a few minutes, to avoid sitting for long periods.

Get creative

If you want to flex your creative skills, there are a growing number of online classes and programmes. For example, Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation, has just launched a new Luminate@Home programme. Every Tuesday and Friday they’re going to be posting a new video with semiring you can get involved in, and it looks like it will be a diverse range of activities, from dancing and singing, to crafts and more.

Look after yourself

The key advice is to look after yourself. While it might be a good time to try something new, remember not to expect too much. These are unusual and uncertain times.

For good sources of advice more generally about being at home, try these guides from the NHS and Age UK.


Craig McManamon

Communications Officer

E: c.mcmanamon@hw.ac.uk