During the Covid lockdown, all of us have struggled to find ourselves. Gone are the evenings at the pub sharing conversation and pints arguing over whether Man City was fielding the correct team on the pitch. The art of face-to-face conversation was stymied like never before. We were suddenly faced with what we’ve long sought: Hours away from distraction, from the job, from annoying friends, and from the world. The problem with getting what we wished for is it can sometimes wear real thin real fast.

As we adjusted to lockdown, we were faced with countless hours alone, holed up in our homes. We quickly learned there are only so many hours one can spend watching the telly, gaming, or browsing for stupid human trick videos. All of this isolation has had a drastic impact on our physical and mental health.

Deteriorating Health Amidst Lockdown

The University College of London has been following 70,000 participants since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and have reported that 40% reporting they are exercising less than during the first lockdown. This can be explained, in part, by 45% reporting working from home a more businesses work from that model. However, the alarming fact is 36% are reporting less engagement with hobbies such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and arts and crafts. This lack of engagement can be detrimental to both physical and mental wellbeing.

Most participants report their overall feelings of happiness and contentment have fallen drastically. Dr. Fancourt has said: “While it is not surprising that the current lockdown has seen fewer people exercising than the first, it is a cause for concern because exercise can boost not just physical, but also mental wellbeing.”

She goes on to say: “As the novelty of increased free-time that came with the first lockdown is less appealing.” The decrease in contentment comes as people “are focused on coping with the current circumstances, rather than finding ways to enjoy them.”

Exercise in a Covid World

How are we supposed to exercise in a Covid-19 world where there are so many restrictions on social distancing and the number of people gathering indoors? Well, as has been the case throughout history, mankind has found a way to adapt to the circumstances of its environment and flourished.

Realizing the importance of exercise, some U.K. residents are taking things into their own hands. As reported by the Independent earlier this month, one man has taken it upon himself to start a ‘doorstep exercise program’ where residents are encouraged to use what they have in their homes such as brooms or canned goods as weights to exercise together maintaining their distance but stepping on their front porches and work out together.

Digital Fitness Solutions

Not surprisingly there has also been an explosion of fitness tech advancements. Some people are realizing that while the gyms have been closed during the lockdown, they can work out from home, at a local park, or on the streets with fitness trackers marking their steps, counting calories burned, and tallying the weight loss. Having this companion of sorts to encourage those who wear them can be important to maintaining a viable exercise plan. Some gyms, while not offering in-person exercise classes, do offer over the Internet solutions as an option. The inclusion of these at-home options has likely changed the way we will view gym memberships and working out as well as the business model from which fitness centers will have to operate within from now on.

Peleton, the manufacturer of interactive exercise cycles, has capitalized on the stay-at-home boom to the tune of £1.3bn in the past twelve months alone with the number of users increasing by 3.1 million.

What to do about those who cannot afford an expensive Peleton cycle or other digital devices to help with exercise? Well, for those Londoners, there is an entire world out there just waiting to help with getting fit and exercising.

Fitness Trails

One alternative, while still practicing social distancing, is using outdoor fitness trails, also called trim trails. We have all seen them. They are nothing new and yet with the restrictions in place, there has been a renewed interest in them as a source for outdoor activity. If you had to guess, how many of these trim trails do you think exist in London? Not even close. There are over 115 locations with more being built every day. Some are built-in wooded parks while still others are in vast green spaces in the heart of the city.

These trails are fitted with easy to traverse, wide paths with conventional workout equipment along the way. These include monkey bars, balance beams, stepping stones, and pull-up bars just to name a few.  Even without using the equipment, the walk alone is a form of exercise.

While there are over a hundred to choose from, here is a list of a dozen different trim trails we most enjoyed in the London area:

  • Battersea
  • Highgate Wood
  • Hilly Fields
  • Kennington
  • Parliament Hill
  • Primrose Hill
  • Queen’s Park
  • Victoria Park
  • Wandsworth
  • Well St. Common
  • West Ham Park
  • Westbourne

Outdoor Gym Locations

Taking the idea of a fitness trail to the next level, there are also fully equipped outdoor gyms arranged in a variety of London parks. Believe it or not, there are over 180 of these outdoor workout spots in the capital. They look more like some crazy colorful set to a Japanese game show but these are in fact places for Londoners to come and work out without having to worry about the close quarters of the local gym. They have machines to work out the upper and lower body in a wonderful outdoor setting.

An added benefit? It is completely free and you won’t have to worry about the long queue at each workout machine.

Placed in large parks or small green spaces, these outdoor gyms are gaining in popularity and taking off in a way no one anticipated. They are not only being utilized by those who are unable to work out in gyms that are closed due to Covid restrictions but others who are simply looking for something to do to stay in shape.

  • Chestnuts Park
  • Lordship Recreation Ground
  • London Fields
  • Ducketts Common
  • Finsbury Park
  • Elthorne Park
  • Whittington Park
  • Pattington Exercise Playground
  • Holland Park
  • Roundwood Park

Families, the elderly, and even serious bodybuilders will find the outdoor workout parks a welcome change to the crowded gyms. With the influx of people using the outdoor machines, several groups have cropped up compromised of those looking to shed the Covid-19 pounds we have all gained while becoming increasingly sedentary over this past year during the lengthy lockdown.

As businesses begin to open and workers begin to commute to and from work, some commuters are stopping at the outdoor parks to work out on the way to the office or on the way home. It is a great way to burn off the stress of the day or to start the day with a spark.

Those who are tired of the stress of having to look good in workout clothes and dress in a particular way to fit in at a traditional indoor gym are flocking to the outdoor gyms. You will not just see the 18-25 crowd of iron-pumping lunatics. There are mums working out with their children and elderly Londoners getting a bit of exercise as well. It’s a very communal atmosphere and very inclusive. It is a safe way to socially interact in this crazy Covid-19 world in which we currently live.

Best Places to Cycle

There has been a resurgence in cycling too. There are numerous locations for Londoners to enjoy cycling whether by the Thames or in one of the other parks in the city. These are a few that we really enjoyed.

  • Thames National Trail
  • Lee Valley
  • Thames Cultural Cycling Tour
  • River Wandle

Best Walking Trails

While many might enjoy working out with the machines and different apparatuses above, there are many more who do not. For those Londoners, there is nothing like a good walk to clear one’s head and to enjoy the outdoors. There are countless parks from which to choose but here are a few that topped our list of best places to walk.

  • Richmond Park
  • Regent’s Park
  • Regent’s Canal

Perhaps some might like to be mentally stimulated while taking a stroll around London. For those patrons, we recommend the Sherlock Holmes tour which details locales which inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterful tales. Those who need something a bit more sinister can walk the same streets as Jack the Ripper on a themed walk.

Best Swimming Locations

Certainly, it is a bit chilly to consider swimming just yet, but that time is coming sooner than you think. As restrictions are lifted and outdoor gatherings are allowed in greater numbers, some of London’s best outdoor swimming locations will begin to open. Here are some we highly recommend.

  • Tooting Bec Lido
  • Hampstead Heath
  • London Fields Lido
  • Brockwell Lido
  • Charlton Lido

Outdoor Workout Classes

As gym locales continue to adapt their way of doing business with the social restrictions, there are several offering outdoor workout classes. These range from yoga, to light cardio, to intense workouts all in an outdoor setting.

  • Bussey Building – Yogarise

Stretching and yoga

  • Chapham Common – Boxit Bootcamp

Boxing, cardio, and pad work.

  • Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

Tennis

Whether restrictions remain in place or are lifted as planned, it is important for a healthy mind and body to make time for exercise. Find your center and help yourself by exercising regularly at one of the outdoor locations listed above.

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