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26/Aug/2021

Have you noticed how much more fun and rewarding exercising is when you do it with others? Whether with family or friends, in a team or in a class, in person or online, exercising together has many benefits.

It motivates you.
It’s much easier to hit snooze and roll over in bed if you’d planned to go for an early morning walk on your own. But if you’re meeting a friend for a walk or a workout, knowing that they’re waiting for you can give you the push you need to get up and pull on your workout gear. If you’ve paid for a class or gym membership or you’re part of a team, the same goes. You don’t want to waste your money or let the team down.

It’s a way to connect with others.
Exercising together is a way to spend quality time with people who are important to us, or share our interests. It’s also a great way to meet new people. And this interaction often extends beyond the gym, sports field or walking trail with pre or post-exercise catch-ups.

It provides support and encouragement.
This is particularly important when feeling tired and sore, but we know exercise (at a reduced intensity) can help us manage these symptoms. Our exercise buddy can provide encouragement to start exercising or to keep going.

It can challenge you to push yourself harder.
When you’re exercising with others, especially if you’re similarly matched in terms of fitness levels, you’re more likely to push harder and spur each other to increase the intensity of your exercise or the distance you walk/run/cycle. This continual challenge provides the best health outcomes over time.

Fitness leaders provide structure and form.
Exercising with a qualified instructor – in person or online – ensures your workout has a proper structure. That includes a warmup, workout and cool down. The instructor can also make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly to get the most benefit and make sure you’re not going to injure yourself.

It’s fun and makes you feel good!
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine into your bloodstream. They’re sometimes called ‘feel-good’ chemicals because they boost your mood and make you feel good. They also interact with receptors in your brain and ‘turn down the volume’ on your pain system. Combine that with the company of your bestie or your partner/kids/neighbour, and it can be a fun time for all ?.

Finding an exercise class, group or centre that suits you

OK, so you’re motivated and want to join an exercise group. How do you find one that suits you?

First – you need to be COVID safe and follow the specific rules in your state or territory.

If in-person classes aren’t possible at the moment, you have other options.

There are lots of free exercise apps, YouTube channels and websites with free online exercise programs. These can be especially helpful when you need or prefer to exercise from home. There’s a class or group to suit all fitness levels and tastes. Read our blog about online exercises for more info and links.

If you can exercise together in person, try these sources to find an exercise class, group or centre that suits you:

  • Neighbourhood houses and community centres are ideal starting points to find exercise options close to you. Visit the Australian Neighbourhood Houses and Centres Association Members page to find your state or territory’s website, where you can then search for local houses or centres and find exercise programs they offer.
  • Local councils are also a good source of information about exercise programs. Go to your local council’s website and search ‘exercise classes’ to see what they offer.
  • Some larger gyms and physio centres have heated indoor swimming pools where you can swim laps or join a warm water exercise class. You can also search online for classes held at community swimming centres.
  • Walking groups are a fun way to get active, meet new people and socialise. The Heart Foundation has over 1200 walking groups around Australia, you can search for one close to you here.
  • parkruns are free, weekly community events are held all around the world with 5km walks and runs in parks and open spaces on Saturday mornings. Everyone is welcome, there are no time limits, and no one finishes last!
  • Fitness Australia has an online directory of personal trainers and businesses. If you’re looking for an exercise class in your area, select Find a Business, click on Group exercise classes and type in your suburb. It’s that simple!

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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05/Aug/2021

Humans have evolved to be an incredibly social species. That’s why our connections are so important to us – with family, friends, work colleagues, teammates, walking buddies, fellow book clubbers and staff at the local coffee shop. They all play a role in shaping who we are and how we get on in the world.

So when we can’t see these people in person due to lockdowns, restrictions, quarantine and the general chaos of COVID, it’s really hard on us.

The last 16 months have been so wearing – both physically and emotionally. We’re living with heightened feelings of anxiety and stress – what will the case numbers be today, when will I be able to visit loved ones, how long will we be homeschooling, when will life go back to ‘normal’??

Unfortunately, there aren’t any simple answers for any of these questions – especially the last one.

But there’s a simple thing you can do to combat the loneliness, lethargy, emotional fatigue and general feeling of ‘meh’ that COVID is causing us to feel. And that’s staying in touch with your peeps and extended community.

How to stay connected when you have to stay apart

First, we should never forget that restrictions and social distancing measures are all about physical distance. We need to remain separate from others so that the virus can’t spread. But that doesn’t mean we have to be socially separated or isolated.

Even before the pandemic, we used technology to remain connected. COVID has just put that on the fast track, and we’ve become familiar with video chats, long phone calls, and messaging.

So what else can you do to ensure you remain connected with the people and places important to you?

Check in. And no, there’s no QR code involved in this one ?! Take time daily to check in with yourself. How are you doing? If you’re feeling anxious or lonely, or overwhelmed, reach out to others for support. If you’re feeling fatigued or in pain, what can you do to deal with this? Taking a few moments to check in with yourself each day helps you deal with any issues before they become significant problems.

Take time to connect with those in your own home – your partner, kids, parents, siblings, housemates, pets, plants??. How’s everyone doing? Share your experiences and feelings about the day. And if you want to go beyond the small talk, try these ‘36 questions for increasing closeness’ from The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley (USA).

Phone a friend. Make a regular time to call/video chat with those important to you. And make that day/time sacred – nothing (other than an emergency) should get in the way of this contact.

Get everyone involved. Call your nearest and dearest for a group chat and…watch movies, listen to music, make dinner, enjoy happy hour, fold the washing, discuss a book, play online games. You can still do things together even if you can’t be together.

Get out and walk. Exercise is essential for our physical and mental health, so get out and breathe in the fresh air. Take the family for a stroll, or meet up with a friend in the park. If you can’t walk with your usual crew, link your fitness apps and compare how many steps you’ve done for a little friendly competition ?. Go on a scavenger hunt. Or send pics to your network of the things you see on your walk. Walking isn’t just a good form of exercise – it can become an adventure, or a mindfulness exercise, or a chance to see other people in the flesh (and safely distanced).

Connect with your neighbours. Have a chat over the fence as you do your gardening or peg out the laundry. Or sit in your separate yards/driveways/balconies and just natter the afternoon away. Take note of any neighbours who live on their own and reach out to them. See if they need any assistance, groceries, someone to take the bins out, or most important of all, simple human interaction. It’s what we all need to get through this.

Immerse yourself. There are lots of online support/hobby/social/exercise groups that you can access from the comfort and safety of your own home. You can learn new things and meet new people without stepping out your door. And the beauty of online groups is they don’t even have to be in the same city, country or continent! Befriend Inc has created a handy guide to help you find and attend social groups online.

Send a care package. To someone you care about, or someone you know is having a difficult time. Send books, jigsaws, flowers, yummy food, a handwritten note. Anything that lets them know you’re thinking of them. It’ll be a lovely surprise and a boost for them, and for yourself. “As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way” – Mary Anne Radmacher.

Give thanks. Even though we’re tired, frustrated, anxious and sick of the stupid virus, there are still things to be thankful for. Taking time to reflect on these things helps us feel more positive and more fulfilled. Find out how you can become more grateful in your everyday life.

Volunteer your time and skills – from home. Volunteer work can be rewarding for yourself and your community. And there’s a lot of volunteer work that can be done online or remotely. So think about the types of things you’re passionate about, your skills, the amount of time you can give, and look around your local community to find the best match. Or visit GoVolunteer and search the database for volunteering opportunities.

Learn something new. There are so many organisations providing online learning courses, and many of them are free or low-cost. Just search online using your favourite search engine, and explore what’s available. Also, check out Laneway Learning, MOOCs (massive open online courses), TAFEs, colleges and community houses. You’ll come out of this pandemic with so much knowledge you’ll wow everyone at your next trivia night ?. And you’ll meet a bunch of like-minded people. Win-win!

Worship. Attending churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship with our family and friends isn’t an option for many people at the moment. The good news is that a lot of them are now online. Contact your place of worship or search online to see what events are being streamed and when. Gather with your extended family and friends virtually after worship to celebrate together.

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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